Igniting Health Technology Innovation: The HealthTech Challenge

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https://www.mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/FacultiesSchoolsCentres/Business/Institutes/InstituteInnovationEntrepreneurship/Blog/20230529-MRU-Innovation-and-Entrepreneurship-Health-Tech-Challenge-BH-199.jpg

 Igniting Health Technology Innovation: The HealthTech Challenge

Empowering Students to leverage emerging technologies to transform health

 

The inaugural HealthTech Challenge at Mount Royal University (MRU), hosted by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently concluded, showcasing the exceptional potential of three cross-disciplinary student teams in driving cutting-edge advancements in health technology. Teams presented innovative solutions to challenges in aging, mental health, and mobility, using emerging technologies such as robotics, AI/ML, the internet of things devices, and additive manufacturing. Funded by the John Dobson Foundation and Alberta Innovates, students unveiled their projects and transformative ideas to a Platform Calgary audience of current students, alumni, staff, faculty, and members of the Calgary tech and innovation community

During the 13-week program, participants gained skills in innovation, product management, hardware and software development, and project management, while working in cross-disciplinary teams. Each team received the support of dedicated faculty mentors, including faculty member Jordan Kidney, senior student mentors, and staff support from the MRU Maker and Media Commons to build on the skills they have learned during their university careers so far, and learn new ones, such as 3D printing, soldering, software development, and CNC.

In order to understand their problem and customer, participants received briefings on aging, mental health, and mobility from award-winning MRU research faculty, including Dr. Christy Tomkins-Lane, founder, venture capitalist, and Department Chair (on leave) of Health and Physical Education, Dr. David Legg, past President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Jocelyn Rempel, M.N, Chair in Older Adult Health, and Dr. Janet Miller, Counsellor at MRU Wellness Services and Full Professor. Participants gained invaluable insights into developing purpose-driven technologies that address the needs of affected populations and helped them develop user-empathy and understanding.

In order to understand product-customer fit and opportunities for further developing their projects, students were connected with startup founders and experts from the Calgary startup community and all over the world, including Pierre Wijdenes, CPO & co-founder of Neuraura, Savana Radley, founder of Radley Robots, and Terri Bryant, founder of Guide Beauty. Connecting students to community mentors is critical for understanding complex community needs and nascent technologies, and allows students to gain experience that will differentiate them to future employers as high-impact talent. During the program, 4 students received job offers, and 2 have received roles at Calgary startups Showpass and Alethea Medical, and one at the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The HealthTech Challenge, a work-integrated experiential learning program, provided students with a $1000 stipend for completing the program, as well as a $1000 build budget, allowing students to ideate freely with advanced technologies they haven’t worked on in the classroom without the fear of breaking hardware they may not be able to personally afford and test.

Triumph Aramunde, software lead for team aging shared, “COVID-19 ended my high school pre-engineering classes, crushing my Mark Rober-inspired DIY gadget creation dreams, or so I thought. Through the experiment-proof budget, community of mentors, and motivating stipend, this university program was transformative in providing the resources needed to direct my passion and skills toward tackling the larger issues society faces today. I’m excited to continue to build my innovation skills by spending part of my stipend on a 3D printer, something I wouldn’t have been able to afford before the challenge.”

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