During reading week, I attended the Propel ICT selection camp to pitch a company Riley and I are working on, and I managed to get a spot in the 2017 cohort. Our software allows the crowd of an event to send song requests to the DJ from their phones. Going to selection camp alone was an interesting but somewhat stressful experience.

What is Propel?

Propel is a startup accelerator in Atlantic Canada. They offer three different programs depending on how far along your company is. We applied for Launch, which guides entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing and launching a startup.

It all started in UIT when everyone in the class had to make a mock application to Propel, we were all also encouraged to send them in but it was optional. We didn’t expect a response when we sent our one minute, poorly-edited video to them. 

propel ict

the cat’s out of the bag now

They must have liked it because after about a week Riley received an email saying we were in. That was exciting.

 

We had come across a problem. In October, Riley booked a trip to England for two weeks in February. Selection camp was during that time. It was too late to cancel his trip, and they couldn’t change the day obviously, so the only option was for me to go alone. That was spooky.

When selection camp rolled around, I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but I figured I’d try my best. Selection camp starts with all the companies delivering an elevator pitch to the whole room (the spooky part), followed with interviews by eight different groups of two mentors for eight minutes each. For those keeping track at home, that’s sixty-four minutes of interviewing and only one of pitching.

February 22nd, 2017 – Dawn of the final day

I’m pretty sure time was moving a little slower while I was waiting to pitch, but when that time came, it went better than I expected. I didn’t think I’d remember the whole thing, but I managed to get it all out and it was under a minute too. It went perfectly. The interviewing was next which I was no problem for me.

Interviewing for over an hour doesn’t sound fun, but that wasn’t the case. All the mentors/judges were super nice and offered a ton of ideas for our company. Everyone seemed to like our idea from what I could tell. Even if we didn’t get into Propel, just getting a chance talking to all these established business(wo)men was incredibly valuable for the ideas they offered. They did all ask pretty well the same questions, but that was to be expected. How many questions could they really ask a kid who doesn’t know much about business other than he has an idea for one?

After being interviewed by all the groups, we were done and people started clearing out. I said my goodbyes and went on my way. Two days later Riley got an email saying that we were in. We were both super happy, and it is definitely an accomplishment that I’m quite proud of.

All in all, selection camp was a fun experience that I would absolutely recommend stays in the UIT curriculum for future years, even if it did seem a little overwhelming/scary at first. Hopefully we make millions (or just one million, I guess we could settle for that) and get the chance to come be judges in the future.

“So what are you doing after high school?”

That’s a question you’ve answered before, but it probably took a long time to think of the final answer. Luckily for me, throughout my high school years I kept hearing about this new startup called “UIT Startup Immersion”, you’ve probably heard about it. After seeking out as many options as I can to have to widest range to chose from, it didn’t seem like a lot of options and UIT was the only program to jump out and gain my full attention.

Of course, I did pick UIT and fast forward until now and I’m about halfway through the program. And it’s going very well. I am learning programming quicker than I thought I ever would and I’m meeting loads of important and interesting people in the tech industry. And I am actually doing a lot of public speaking, which to be honest I thought I’d never have to do in life. I’m still not a huge fan of getting up in front of a group of people but I suppose I’d have to say I’ve gotten a lot better at it.

“So what am I doing after UIT?”

As the end of the UIT comes closer, I’m asking myself the same question I asked last year but it’s now “What do I do after UIT?” Most graduates at UIT will either move forward with their startup idea, or even join an existing company. However, personally I’d like to stay in school to gain more educational experience. Now I have the same options I’ve had before minus UIT. Since CBU doesn’t have a Computer Science Program, and I also don’t wanna leave Cape Breton this year, I chose the Web Development program at NSCC.

I chose the program because it’s something I actually like doing. I could’ve went forward with the UIT credits and chose a BBA at CBU, however I feel like that didn’t interest me enough. While doing web development at NSCC, my experience from UIT might over qualify me for it however I feel like if I spent more time on coding over a longer period of time I’d definitely get better at it. Another thing is that I’m still not sure what I’m passionate for. I picked coding because I thought I’d be good at it since I’ve been on computers my whole life, but I’m unsure which type of programming I want to specialize in.

In the end, I chose NSCC because it’s close to home, it’s something I like doing, and it’s two years of time I can think about what I’m passionate for.

Woohoo! It’s time to start rolling out the red carpet for the 2017 UIT Startup Immersion High School Hackathon! What’s a high school hackathon, you say? Well, well, well, pull up a chair and let me tell you all about it.

Picture this: you arrive at our fun and funky space in downtown Sydney bright and early on Saturday, March 4th. You are greeted with an array of delicious and maaaaaaybe not-so nutritious breakfast foods to fill your belly that will get you ready to take on the day. We will introduce you to our amazing mentors and you can introduce yourself to everyone – there now, we are all friends.

You can enter a team or we can place you with a team, the choice is yours. Don’t
worry about how much programming, design, product development or computer skills you have because we will make sure you work with a group of people that complement the skills you do have. It’s a win-win situation.

You will spend about an hour working with your awesome team to come up with some ideas to build a web or mobile product. Think about the fun apps you like to engage with or the best websites you always visit – what makes them great? What makes them interesting to you? You’ll begin mapping out and building out your digital product and putting the pieces together as a team.

Bring on the lunch time spread! Eat until you can’t eat anymore and then it’s back to work on your masterpiece. Did we mention that you’ll be working with some of best programmers, designers and techies in the area!? Get ready to learn a ton!

You’ll work with your team until about supper time – and then it’s time for more food. Man, are you getting hungry just thinking about all the free food? I sure am. After supper you can put the finishing touches on your digital masterpiece and then we will gather around to see what you’ve created. You can also invite your friends and family – the more, the merrier!

When it’s all said and done, the staff and mentors at UIT will have a round table discussion about the awesome work you did and will be handing out prizes for best design, best idea, best functionality, who ate the most pizza….you get the idea!  

Last year, we had nine students participate in the hackathon! In two groups they built an app in which users could throw items at characters on the screen and a portal for a variety of games to be played online.

We are super excited to start accepting applications for this year’s hackathon. Click here to register. We can’t wait to create with you!

We are already into the second month of 2017 and time isn’t slowing down. If you are at work thinking to yourself, “man, I wish I had a cooler job” or “man, this job is sucking the soul out of me”, maybe it is time for a change? If 2016 got you down, you probably made a resolution to make 2017 ‘your’ year. We can help make 2017 your year. Keep reading.

Here’s the thing: life is really short. Too short, in fact, to be wasting your time at a job that is getting you nowhere in life. What if you could have a job that can take you everywhere, or keep you in Cape Breton if that’s your dream? So many people want to stay in Cape Breton and earn a fair wage and have stability in their lives and it sometimes seems like a pipe dream, but it’s not.

If the idea of working in the tech sector seems like something that isn’t for you, I’m here to tell you there is a job for everyone in technology. So, forget about the idea of technology, it’s a big fancy word that is used to label an industry. Within the industry there are hundreds of jobs that need to be filled! The great thing about technology is that the spin off is incredible: sales, marketing, advertising, recruiting, human resources, networking, programming, product design, business, agriculture, clean energy, oceans, education, politics. As you can see, the list goes on and on.

It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have right now, you can work in the technology sector and support the efforts of those who fight the good fight to bring stability and innovation to Cape Breton. If you want to be at the heart of what is going on, UIT Startup Immersion is the path you want to walk to get you there. If you think you can’t learn to code, let me tell you: you are wrong. We are so good at teaching coding, product design, development, business skills and networking, that we can give you what you need to find your place in tech. We are helping people find opportunity in a community where opportunity is perceived as scarce and we are blazing trails faster than ever before.

Our curriculum changes rapidly because employers visit our campus and say they need a developed skill set that can change from year to year or even month to month. Our student success coaches wake up early and stay late to make sure our students are ready for community pitch days. Our facilities are open to our students 24 hours a day to give them room to get the job done.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’ve got this cool idea for an app,” UIT is the place for you. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “man, I’d love to run a business but need money to get started,” UIT is the place for you. If you’ve ever looked at your boss and thought “I should be running this place,” UIT is the place for you. We will teach you to build that app, find money to start that business and show you how to be that boss.

Don’t wait. We have a few seats left for September. Make 2017 ‘your’ year.

Before I begin, I must admit I haven’t written a blog in quite some time so my ‘blog writing skills’ may be a bit rusty…bare with me folks!

My first week at UIT included many ‘firsts.’ Like anyone, when starting a new job your first day can be nerve wracking and a bit overwhelming, but for me neither of those feelings occurred. When I first arrived at UIT I was welcomed with open arms by the staff but I was also welcomed by students and success coaches, a first I have never experienced at any job before. As I began to settle in, I knew my time at UIT would be a learning curve and that my job as a recruitment officer would be a learning experience. I was eager to begin working but before that I had to become familiar with the apps and programming used at UIT. Slack, Trello and HubSpot were popular modes of communication and to my advantage, very easy to use. Soon after I became familiar with these apps I began thinking, heck maybe the tech ‘world’ we speak of isn’t so hard to understand but then words such as redis, coding and larp were later thrown around the classroom which made me think to myself…..whuuuuut? As a recruitment officer these applications won’t apply to me but having an understanding of what they do so I can relay this information to prospective students is a learning curve I am willing and hoping to overcome.

I was given the opportunity to sit in on a ‘pitching’ class with the seven students currently enrolled here at UIT and instructor Ian MacNeil. The class included evaluating students performance in a three minute video on a topic of their choice. A topic with a tone in which set the mood for an intended audience to either think or do an action. At the end of this class I realized UIT was different and unique. Why? Because their students are unique. Of the presentations I listened to I was blown away with the ideas and topics students wanted to talk about. Of the topics discussed they all had one thing in common which was passion.

This passion transferred into the afternoon class which I had the opportunity to sit in on as well. During this class students discussed their startup ideas they will be pitching to Propel later in the semester. Of the ideas that were discussed, I was in ‘awe’ at what the students wanted to create. Not only did the startup ideas sound interesting and effective but they also addressed current problems some of which help enhance the economic prosperity of Cape Breton and surrounding areas.

Throughout the week I began to become more comfortable in my work setting. UIT is far from a regular workspace environment (in a good way of course). UIT even has a slipper policy? I get to wear slippers to work….this….is….the….best. Aside from the great news about slippers, the environment is non-threatening, I am able to be myself and talk about more than just work but what I am doing in my personal life, interests and hobbies.

The pace during the following days at UIT began to pick up. I began scheduling meetings, drafting e-mail templates  and organizing lists of students to get in touch with in regards to next year’s enrolment. Chatter about entering local high schools to do open-house information sessions seem to be on the radar, an exciting opportunity for myself to meet students and ignite their interest about what UIT has to offer.

To end my first week at UIT I was able to sit in on Ian MacNeil’s class again. Friday’s class was about the media, a topic of conversation which is ‘right of my alley’ you could say. Discussions about media interactions, media interviews and communications plans took place. I had the opportunity to touch up on my writing skills by drafting a media release. This was actually great practice for me and also gave me the opportunity to correlate with Spencer, a current student here at UIT.

During the drive home from work on Friday afternoon I was able to reflect on my first week and feel excitement for what is to come. I am eager to start interacting with prospective students and educate them about what UIT has to offer. As mentioned, UIT is unique as is their students and I am hoping to use this to my advantage during the recruitment process for 2017!

Self-directed learning: It’s overused and underestimated at every turn. Sometimes, adult learners don’t quite understand how to be self-directed and confuse self direction with motivation and initiative. Trust me though, they are very different and self-directed learning – which probably needs an updated term – is one of the most important skills a person can develop.

Here’s why: if you can discover your ability to become self-directed, you can teach yourself virtually anything. Like, literally anything. When you unlock the door to your own brain and if are frank about your strengths and weaknesses, you can master what your heart desires.

Now, I’m not saying that teaching yourself to piece together a car or build a house will be an easy task, but I am saying you can teach yourself to do it. The trick is in identifying your learning style and working to improve your weaknesses, as well as your strengths.

If you are not “handy”, you can learn to be handy by starting with small, easily accessible projects. Build a square box. That’s it. Don’t do anything else. Learn what it takes to “square” two pieces of wood, and figure out how to make them level. Find sources to help you learn these things: identifying other people who have the skills already is a good place to start. Knowing where to look online or in a book is helpful too. It doesn’t matter how you  come to acquire the knowledge necessary to build the box; what is important is that you build the box no matter what.

Self-directed learning is about seeking out new knowledge and navigating your resources to make the most of your goals. Self-directed learning is not sitting at home studying for a test: while the act of directing yourself to sit and study is certainly noteworthy, it does not define the true power of self-directed learning.

UIT Startup Immersion encourages students to be self-directed learners. We give you the tools you need to succeed, but how you take those tools out into the world and how you use them is based on your drive, determination and curiosity about the power of your new found knowledge. What’s cool about our program is that we actually teach you to become self-directed. We do this by constantly asking you why, how, what, when, where, why, why, why? We do this by asking you what else is there? What else could there be? We send you out to find out for yourself what else is out there. The more questions you ask, the more informed you’ll be, and the better prepared you’ll be to take on your next project. Having the ability to filter through the crap and find the good stuff is what self-directed learning can help you achieve.

There are arguments for the pros and cons of both traditional learning classrooms and online learning classrooms but whether one is really better than the other doesn’t matter: what matters is a person’s ability to leave a learning opportunity armed with the ability to continue learning more about a topic or skill that they are interested in: and it starts with arming yourself with the ability to be self-directed. Want to learn how to unlock the power of self-directed learning and start working toward a career in tech and entrepreneurship – where learning happens everyday – then come check us out.

 

It’s been quite the semester. We’ve done a lot of cool stuff, and I’ve learned more than I probably did in all of grade 12. I’ve made 4 websites so far, and I can’t wait to make more. Over Christmas break I’m going to do some JavaScript lessons and try playing with Ionic a bit, but I’ll start from the beginning.

Humble Beginnings

The first project we had to do was to create a portfolio from a template. Super simple, but back then it was bit more of a challenge. I was still learning the basics of HTML and what everything was. I think we had a week or two to do it, which was plenty of time. It turned out well, and was a good intro to UIT and the basics of developing websites.

mathboard

the og mathboard

After the portfolio we all made chat apps. Mine was a canvas with a chatroom to collaborate on math equations called Mathboard. We had two weeks to make this one, and it was written in JS and HTML. I used PubNub for the backend of mine because it was a lot simpler than Firebase for making a canvas. This project also turned out well and was where I really started learning a lot more about coding, particularly JS.

UIT isn’t just code!

Meanwhile, on the business side of the course, we’ve been following startups and learning the basics of starting a company and how to keep it afloat. Global Entrepreneurship Week is also a huge thing at UIT. For one week in November, we had events with mentors every day. I wrote a blog about it here, but to sum it up, it was such a fantastic networking and learning opportunity, and I’m super happy to have been involved even in the small amount that I was.

angularMathboard

much more bootstrap-y and simple!

Global Entrepreneurship Week also marked the second week we were working on our next project, a software-as-a-service app. I remade Mathboard, but without a canvas and focussed on connecting users to tutors. You can make a room, and then that room is joinable by one other person who will be your tutor. Then after the tutor helps you, you can leave them a rating as you leave the room. Very simple concept, but I didn’t start early enough. During the last week before we had to present it, I came in on off days to get help from Rob (thanks Rob!). Thankfully, I had something put together in time, which also turned out alright. The website isn’t something I plan to continue with other than as a UIT project.

End of the semester

The last day of the semester we presented our portfolios again, but this time we updated them and added our projects. The last day of the semester was also cancelled by a storm. I still drove in to do my presentation. If that doesn’t say enough about how much I’ve enjoyed the semester, I’m not really sure what else I could say.

Next semester, we’re going to start another project where we use our own backend for one of our previous projects. I’m looking forward to getting started on that, but I’m going to use the break to learn more JS, because I feel like that is where I’ve experienced the most difficulty. As for this semester, everybody did not a bad job.