An ocean of possibilities

- March 22, 2017

Participants pose in The Collider space in the Killam Library during last weekend's Launch Oceans event. (Provided photo)
Participants pose in The Collider space in the Killam Library during last weekend's Launch Oceans event. (Provided photo)

Marine vehicles, underwater image mapping and ocean education were just a few of the areas explored last weekend as part of Launch Oceans, a Dal-led startup event that saw students, scientists and community members come together to develop new approaches to problems in the ocean sector.

Participants pitched ideas and coalesced around different projects during a panel discussion Friday night and by Sunday afternoon five teams were presenting their fresh business ideas to a team of judges, which included Dal President Richard Florizone.

Strength in diversity

Innowave walked away with the top prize of $3000 for its idea of using wave energy to provide power solutions for underwater vehicles.

Innowave’s members joined together with similar interests, but came from across the world: Canadian Dal business student David Rowe worked along with international engineering students Katherine Lin from China and Canberk Bal from Turkey as well as American scientist Maria Kilfoil from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Diversity is something we recognized as a strength,” said Dr. Kilfoil.

The team agreed that working as a group rather than individuals made the process run smoothly as each member could work on something different. “Everyone had their own expertise,” said Bal.

Second-place finisher AQUIM scored $2000 for its autonomous quick underwater image mapping, while third place team ROVault received $1000 for their pitch of an educational remotely operated underwater vehicle that allows kids to monitor ocean activities.

At the end of the presentations Sunday, Dr. Florizone said he was so impressed with the teams’ ideas that he was awarding each of them an extra $1000.

The two teams that did not place also had standout ideas: Deep Sound pitched real time analysis of marine acoustics and Marine VR discussed experimental 3D and virtual-reality marine education. Both these teams received $1000 each as well: $500 from Dr. Florizone and $500 from the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, whose Launch Dal initiative hosted the weekend event in The Collider space in the Killam Library.

Focus through mentorship

Along with their own discussions, conversations with mentors allowed the teams to focus their ideas. AQUIM credited their mentors’ influence with how their final pitch turned out.

“They helped us learn technologies that are already available and things we should avoid,” said Cayden Spencer, a Dal Engineering student and member of AQUIM. “Our idea developed so many different times.”

According to event organizer Jesse David, reaching out to experts brought great feedback and education for the participants, especially since some had little to no exposure to the oceans sector before this weekend.

Experts themselves were all for the chance to connect with participants. “They are all local business people who really want to see Nova Scotia succeed,” said David.

David recently graduated from Dal with a Masters in mechanical engineering. His area of focus was unmanned marine vehicles, leading him to work with professionals in oceanography. Multiple teams incorporated unmanned marine vehicles into their business ventures pitched on Sunday.

Mentor Ulrich Lobsiger from Geoforce Group Limited brought his expertise to Friday’s panel and mentored the teams. His advice: learn from the past.

“A lot of ideas have been created by pioneers, but the technologies weren’t there,” said Lobsiger. “We can learn a lot from taking unfinished projects and applying modern technology to them.”

Lobsiger was impressed with how far the teams’ ideas evolved in a short time. “It’s quite amazing,” said Lobsiger. “A lot can come from these interactions – time with mentors, and being challenged. This dialogue has to continue.”

The teams will have the chance to continue and build on their potential as all five were invited to present their pitches at Oceans Week, an event offering the Halifax community ocean-focused activities and education this June.


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