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Big Ideas Contest: And the Winners are...January 16, 2018

Six lucky engineering students are bridging their big ideas from McMaster Engineering to Silicon Valley as winners of the Big Ideas Contest.

The contest, launched by McMaster Engineering Co-Op & Career Services (ECCS), gave students the opportunity to submit their big ideas to solve  real-world problems for a chance to win a trip to Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and San Francisco with Ishwar Puri, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, ECCS staff and faculty members.

The winners, who were announced on Jan. 16 at an event in the John Hodgins Engineering lobby, will tour some of the top tech companies in the world including Google and Tesla, learn from key innovators, develop their professional skills and have an experience of a lifetime from February 21 to 24. 

Over 60 students entered the contest, and the winners were selected by a panel of judges including Elizabeth Hassan, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"Most of you pitched ideas that will make the world a better place," said Hassan at the event. "I think that generous spirit is really the hallmark of McMaster Engineering and we can be proud of that community."

The contest kicked off the Faculty’s #BigIdeas campaign, a celebration of its 60th Anniversary. The campaign recognizes excellence and big ideas in engineering education, innovation, community and research. Faculty members, students, staff, alumni, donors and industry partners will be encouraged to share their big ideas throughout the coming months for a chance to win some great prizes, and for a chance to have their idea put into action. The campaign will also recognize the big thinkers of the faculty’s past present and future through inspirational stories.

Introducing our #BigIdeas Contest Winners:

Name: Andrew Aslanidis
Program: Mechanical Engineering and Society, Level 2
When he’s not studying: Aslanidis is a manufacturing team lead for the McMaster Formula Electric team.
Big Idea: Electric buses powered by charging plates that are built into the ground at terminals. Instead of burning fossil fuels when stopping at a terminal, buses would park over the plate and charge automatically using induction.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with his career aspirations: “I am interested in entrepreneurship and by visiting Silicon Valley, I would meet so many like-minded people who could inspire me to start my own company, or come up with my own product that could improve the lives of others.”
First reaction to winning the contest: “I’m excited to hang out with people who have big ideas and want to change the world. That’s engineering at it’s core and that’s why I want to become an engineer.”
Andrew's Big Idea video:

Name: Elizabeth DaMaren
Program: Mechatronics Engineering & Society, Level 3
When she’s not studying: DaMaren is a teaching assistant for the Engineering Design and Graphics course and is a software engineering co-op student for Telus.
Big Idea: Ever get tired of scrolling through photos of celebrities, fashion trends and cats on your phone all day? DaMaren wants to develop Insight, an app that tracks your social media activity and shows you articles on topics outside of your usual social media bubble. The app would share articles and videos on topics such as global hunger and climate change, helping to broaden peoples’ knowledge on issues that matter and develop their own big ideas to change the world.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with her career aspirations: “I want to be a part of the generation of engineers that helps to develop technologies that both improve society and the environment.”
First reaction to winning: “Disbelief. When I saw my name on the screen, my heart stopped. I’m so excited.” 
Elizabeth's Big Ideas Video:

Name: Salma Latuke
Program: Chemical Engineering, Final Year
When she’s not studying: Latuke is a student fundraising representative for McMaster.
Big Idea: When Latuke walks home late at night, she wants to feel safe. Her idea is an app that connects the user with trained volunteers from all over the world. No matter how late it is, there is always someone from a different time zone available to keep you company over the phone on your walk home. In case of an emergency, the app has the GPS coordinates of your location, your local emergency services information and your physical description.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with her career aspirations: “My long-term career aspiration is to build a company. Going to Silicon Valley would give me the opportunity to network with those in the entrepreneurial community and potentially gain a mentor…I want to learn how innovators got their start in entrepreneurship and the resources that were helpful and instrumental to their success.”
First reaction to winning: “As someone who is about to graduate, I’m excited to learn about other peoples’ career paths and how they got to where they are.” 
Salma's Big Idea Video:

Name: Justin Licari
Program: Computer Science, Level 4 and Co-Op student
When he’s not studying: Licari is a self-employed SEO consultant. He also develops web apps for startups.
Big Idea: Getting work experience as a full-time student can be challenging. Licari wants to help students by launching a software program that helps students gain valuable work experience through part-time, short-term projects with startups.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with his career aspirations: “Meeting with tech companies in Silicon Valley would give me the exposure to launch my software platform.”
First reaction to winning: “When I saw my video up there I started thinking about my idea more and more. I want to talk to people who may have been in my shoes five or six years ago, found success and learn all about what they did.”
Justin's Big Idea Video:

 

Name: Adit Patel
Program: Software Engineering Embedded Systems, Level 3
When he’s not studying: Patel was a volunteer at last year’s First Robotics event. He also designed and developed products for Elevety Inc. using 3D modelling.
Big Idea: Patel wants to develop smart vents to fix the temperature imbalance that often occurs with heating and cooling systems in the home, helping homeowners save thousands on energy costs. The Internet of Things technology uses a duct fan, bluetooth and WiFi to control the temperature in every room in the home. Patel has a prototype of the device, which he explains in his video.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with his career aspirations: “The next steps for turning this big idea into a sustainable company is to learn from what others have done, this is what I hope to accomplish by going to the valley.”
First reaction to winning: “I think the best part about the trip will be the people we meet and getting to know the other winners. Finding others who are like minded and sharing your ideas with them – I think it’s great.”
Adit's Big Ideas Video: 

Name: Jesse Wang
Program: Mechanical Engineering, Level 3
When he’s not studying: Wang is on the McMaster Solar Project team
Big Idea: A universal interface for charging battery packs on alternative, greener methods of electric transportation such as e-bikes and electric skateboards. A universal interface could lead to the creation of portable charging stations for any green method of transportation. You can see how he built his own electric skateboard in his video below.
How a trip to Silicon Valley aligns with his career aspirations: “I find electric vehicles fascinating and the opportunity to visit a company such as Tesla would certainly be a unique opportunity to gain insight about this field from leading innovators. And also maybe meeting Elon Musk.”
First reaction to winning: “I was at a complete loss for words. There were a lot of great ideas and I’m really grateful to be one of the chosen ones. It’s also a nice chance to get away from the snow.”
Jesse's Big Idea Video: