This summer, while most high school students stayed far away from classrooms and textbooks, Langley’s Emily Chan was selected to participate in the SHAD fellowship program.
Every year SHAD, a not-for-profit organization aimed at empowering exceptional high school students, accepts roughly 600 students from across Canada to participate in a month-long program.
This program is designed for students “to recognize and envision their full potential as tomorrow’s leaders and change makers, said SHAD president Barry Bisson.
“We select the individuals based on a track record of academic excellence; on evidence of drive and initiative,” Bisson said. “We look for creativity and strong interpersonal skills.”
Chan, currently in her senior year at R.E. Mountain Secondary, lived in-residence at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. and attended seminars, lectures, and group activities focused on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
For her, the program was an opportunity to explore beyond her interest in science.
“I was also interested in business, because I’ve never had any encounters with business programs,” Chan said.
She is currently looking at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia’s science programs for next fall with a eye to pursuing medical school.
While participating in the program’s daily schedule, SHAD fellows are also tested on their sense of innovation and challenged to form teams to create an original product or service that solves a particular societal problem or issue.
“We like to focus on issues where solutions can create enormous positive impact for society and our economy,” Bisson said.
This year’s theme was play.
Chan and 14 other students joined forces and brought the idea of play back to the basics by creating PlayPod, a sports equipment dispensary.
“Instead of focusing on incorporating electronics like cellphones and creating a product, [we thought] why don’t we just make it more accessible for people who don’t have the money to buy equipment,” Chan said.
For her, figuring out ways that help people live a healthy lifestyle is important, and she believes PlayPod does just that.
While Chan’s teammates worked on marketing strategies and business proposals, Chan’s role in PlayPod was to help with the creation of the prototype.
“It’s kind of like a vending machine, but instead it has cubbies and lockers,” Chan explained.
Through swiping a library card, the machine would open and offer access to baseball bats, basketballs, and other sporting equipment to rent and play with.
In the last week of the program, 15 teams are chosen to compete in the SHAD-John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup, where teams present their product or service to a panel of judges.
Competing as a wildcard entry, PlayPod was declared the overall winner recently in Waterloo, Ont. for its “functional design, broad application, as well as how it helps families with limited resources,” Bisson said.
In addition to Chan’s involvement in creating the winning prototype, Langley’s Jessica Kim took second place for marketing and third place for a website.
Kim’s team created for BeamChase, a phone app and attachment that brings the traditional game of laser tag to the outdoors with the use of infrared technology.
William Park, also of Langley, won first place for best application of scientific principles and third place for best application of theme for TopPlay, which turns rooftops of unused buildings into areas accessible for play.
Chan and her teammates are now looking for angel investors to move PlayPod from prototype to reality.
Each member of PlayPod is from various areas across Canada, but they have remained in contact. They are taking individual responsibility to network their prototype in their own provinces.
“Right now we are trying to focus on our own cities and see if our cities will be interested,” Chan said.
She has not yet been in contact with the City of Langley, as the team is still finalizing how PlayPod would be implemented into parks and recreational areas.
“I think [PlayPod] would work really well anywhere,” she said.
“I know that there are a lot of parks in Langley [where the] centre is closed, so why don’t they go to a PlayPod and rent out equipment there.”
SHAD is accepting applications for their 2016 fellowship program until Nov. 30.
For more information visit www.Shad.ca.