Roughly 1/3 of the companies going through PropelICT this year are from Cape Breton — and most of those are students or alumni of UIT Startup Immersion!

Co-founded by Gerry Pond, Propel is Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator. Its mandate is to:

educate and mentor entrepreneurs with the goal of launching Atlantic Canada’s first billion dollar tech company

Same! — though we tend to be a little upstream in the pipeline (to mix metaphors). We train students to build apps and test business models. Many of our students and alumni then go on to pitch their ideas to Propel (and others) in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals.

So we’re very encouraged by the fact that all but one of this year’s Propel Launch cohort are UIT students, alumni, or staff:

  • BidSquid (a stock-market-like platform for rural commodities) — cofounders David Hachey and Andrew MacDonald are UIT students.
  • MySong (an SMS/mobile app that connects DJ’s and partygoers) — cofounders Riley Boudreau and Freddie Willett are UIT students.
  • EspresSos (a rolodex for your friends/coworkers’ coffee preferences) — cofounders Rachael MacKeigan and George Johnston are UIT alumni.
  • Player Pack (a digital hockey card and social network for little leaguers) — founder Steven Rolls is a UIT alumni.
  • Click2Order (branded online ordering for restaurants) — cofounders Matt Stewart and Rob Myers are UIT staff.

(The sixth Sydney-based company is Perata, a retail analytics startup that won Innovacorp’s Spark funding in 2016… and keeps trying to hire UIT students before they’ve even completed our 10-month program! Hi Glenn 🙂 )

Why is UIT so well represented in Propel’s first Cape Breton cohort? Because — as per the ‘upstream-pipeline’ — we prepare students for exactly this kind of opportunity in an aspiring entrepreneur’s journey. But hey, don’t take our word for it: hear from some of the students themselves: uitstartup.org/at-uit-episode-2

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Propel’s 12-week Launch cohort in Sydney is hosted at Navigate Startup House, down the hall from UIT, in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation. For other details, see Entrevestor’s article: http://entrevestor.com/ac/blog/sydney-prominent-in-propel-cohort

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.

 

This is the first part in a series that will cover the changes we’ve made to the UIT Website this year.

One of the biggest struggles students can experience following their graduation is to build up an online presence. They need to be able to sell themselves either as founders, developers or in whatever capacity they enter the workforce but they may not have a huge online footprint yet. This footprint is critical. Let’s not kid ourselves: everyone gets Googled when they apply for a job. Employers look at your Facebook profile or anything else they can find.

At UIT we’d be negligent in our commitment to help our students succeed if we didn’t help prepare them for this fact. We already coach them on this. We explain why it’s important to have a github profile with a variety of public repos and blog posts, and even an active StackOverflow presence. But this year we’re taking that a step further and helping facilitate creating and displaying that content.

We have a student directory page that lists all current students and every student has a profile page. We’ve also optimized the SEO on these pages so that if you Google a UIT student you’re very likely to see this page as one of their first result. This page has a number of tabs that display relevant content about the student.

The About Tab

It only makes sense that every student would have an about section. They can populate any of a number of different fields and very few are required, they use this as much as they chose to. This tab will quickly allow you to get in touch with a UIT student via any number of methods, as well as quickly learn a little bit about them.

The Posts Tab

Students used to write blog posts on their own sites or other places, and it was handled somewhat erratically. This year there’s more of a focus on getting them to create that content and we’re also allowing them to publish it directly on our site. Blog posts are also a significant part of their grades for some classes. As a result of that every student has a tab on their profile that lists the blogs they’ve posted.

This is obviously extremely beneficial to the student: the content they write will be available to employers, investors and employees. It’s also beneficial to us. We proudly display this content because it shows how much our students are learning and gives us a significant quantity of content to share on social media.

The Knowledge Base

Stack Overflow is an excellent resource for programmers and we wanted to have something similar for UIT students. Building a similar knowledge base of questions and answers allows us to direct future students to questions posed by previous ones, relevant to either our curriculum, being a student at UIT, or anything else. This greatly increases efficiency with regards to answering questions. Given that students can answer questions asked by other students, it also helps foster a sense of internal community, and once we roll this feature out to  UIT alumni, we can also help foster relationships between current students and alumni.

This resource serves a number of critical purposes. It provides a great way to have publicly displayed information regarding the UIT experience, and gives us a metric we can use to help grade students on participation. A breakdown of their involvement with the knowledge base is available on their profiles.

This feature is new and still in development. We’ll be rolling it out in greater detail in the second semester and involvement will be a part of their grades for at least 1 class.

Grades, Attendance and Notes

This one is pretty self explanatory. When a student is logged in and viewing their profile they can see any grades they have for projects, classes or assignments. They can also see any notes we’ve made regarding their attendance or absences and they can see any other notes we’ve put on their profiles (eg: 1 on 1 discussions regarding projects)

Student Grade Example

Student Self Assessments

These aren’t the same as grades. On a regular basis we will provide the students with a self assessment survey involving a number of skills and qualities that we feel are important for them to be developing. They will assess themselves on these metrics on a scale of 1 to 5 (Below screenshot in blue). UIT staff will also assess them on these metrics (below screenshot in green) and they’ll be able to view the combined result on their profiles.

This element is also currently in development and we expect the format to change over time as we optimize it.

Student Assessment Example


Stay tuned! We’ll be covering more of the new functionality on our website in further blog posts

At this point in your life, you’ve probably taken a good number of surveys about all kinds of things that are meant to help you understand yourself better and make you a more successful person. It may seem a bit daunting to take on a lengthy survey but what you can gain from even a few new bits of knowledge about yourself is worth the effort.

At UIT Startup Immersion, we look for students to be self-motivated and to be able to direct their own learning based on their career goals, wants and needs. But sometimes adult learners don’t know how they learn – until they are in a classroom and realize that they are not “getting it”. This can be incredibly frustrating and can derail their entire plan. We work hard to teach people how to identify what works for them so that they can reach their goals.

If you have never taken a learning styles inventory before, why not give it a try! If you have, it never hurts to know more about yourself to help you move closer to your goals. Here’s a few learning styles surveys that can help you align your learning experiences to your learning style. Remember that most people have a multimodel style of learning, which means that everyone learns in a variety of ways.

VARK stands for Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetics referring to the different ways you absorb and process new information. VARK emphasizes the importance of knowing your learning strengths, not just your learning preferences. There are sections on the VARK website that give you some high level tips and tricks about your learning styles and how you can better manage your learning experiences. There is a small fee for processing your learning style questionnaire, but you can get a lot out of the website without having to pay the fee. Once you get an idea of your learning style, you can also take to Google to learn more about your styles.

Multiple Intelligence Self-Assessment is a free resource that illustrates how you use different parts of your brain. The assessment asks you to comment on how you use your time and is not typical of other self-assessments which ask you to think about an incident or event. There are some good resources on this website to lend suggestion to your learning style based on the varying levels of involvement: Visual, intrapersonal, linguistic, musical and more.

Learning Styles Online is a really comprehensive graph-based inventory that provides a ton of information about specific learning styles including events you may identify with, phrases that may be utilized to showcase a specific learning style, techniques to improve your learning styles and more. This is a bit of a longer survey – 70 questions – but the info you can gain from it is great!

While the notion of learning styles inventories is relatively the same across the board, the output from each survey is a little different. Some use graphs, some use percentages, and some use images to convey your strengths in learning styles. The more surveys you take, the better equipped you’ll be to take on a new learning experience and meet it with success! Stay tuned for part two of our blog series on learning: self-directed learning.