Meet the 2019 DECA GRIT Tank Judges – Faculty of Engineering

Meet the 2019 DECA GRIT Tank Judges

At stake for competitors is a coveted spot in the DECA International Conference, a $5,000 DECA scholarship to the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster, and a mentorship with one of our esteemed judges.

University Hall windows with trees and the sun shining down

On February 8th, high school students will compete for top spots in the McMaster Engineering GRIT Tank event at the DECA Ontario Provincial Competition.

A record 30 teams of high school students will compete for top prize, armed with a one page lean business proposal and a pitch designed to knock the socks off the judges. The challenge? Present an innovative solution to this question:  

What’s your big idea to improve the efficiency (both time and cost) of retrofitting an existing home for accessibility and barrier free living?

At stake for competitors is a coveted spot in the DECA International Conference, a $5,000 DECA scholarship to the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster, and a mentorship with one of our esteemed judges.

And who better to scout future entrepreneurial talent than those who are already innovating themselves? Each of our judges has shown what it means to take risks and be creative.

Meet the GRIT Tank Competition Judges:

The Serial Entrepreneur: Nick Romano

Nick Romano is a serial entrepreneur, an accomplished CEO, senior Enterprise Technology executive, Outside Director, and Advisor delivering successful outcomes through leadership, integrity, innovation, and empowerment for over 20 years. He leverages extensive experience in corporate governance, formulating and executing cross-functional strategic plans, developing go-to-market strategies including product, marketing, and sales. A revenue driven executive focused on growing and scaling companies whether organic or externally funded. Nick earned his Bachelor of Engineering and Management in Mechanical Engineering from McMaster University and was recently honoured by McMaster’s Engineering Faculty as being one of their Top 150 Distinguished Alumni for the role they’ve played in shaping Canada and the world.

What advice do you have for the McMaster Engineering GRIT Tank Competitors?
“Focus on the “why” of your solution.  Why would people use your solution vs. alternatives? Google and watch the Simon Sinek “Start With Why” video.”

The Social Developer: Janelle Hinds

Janelle Hinds is the founder of Helping Hands, a platform to help youth volunteer and get civically engaged while building skills for their future careers. While working on her Bachelors of Engineering with majors in both Biomedical and Electrical Engineering at McMaster, Janelle realized her passion for STEM education, entrepreneurship and diversity issues. She founded HackItMac, a collaborative community to learn about technology and organized deltaHacks, one of the first student-run hackathon in North America with a focus on enabling positive social change. Janelle is an advocate for social innovation and encouraging others to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours.  She is now a leading Diversity Equity and Inclusion advocate and consultant helping organizations create inclusive workforces, products and services. She was recently awarded Samara’s Everyday Political Citizen Award and Dutch organization Inspiring Fifty’s top women in Technology and Innovation.

What advice do you have for the McMaster Engineering GRIT Tank Competitors?
“It is important that you make sure in any entrepreneurial endeavours you pursue that you are solving a real problem for people. It is also important to think of the impacts your product, service or process will have various diverse groups of people as well as the impact on the planet.”

The Innovator-Educator: Dr. Robert Fleisig

Dr. Robert Fleisig, P.Eng., is an Associate Professor (Teaching-Stream) in the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology in the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University with a passion for inspiring empathy, creativity and interdisciplinary thinking in undergraduate and graduate students as well as in academic and local communities. Dr. Fleisig believes that for the university and graduates to make impactful contributions to society, it is no longer sufficient to only have disciplinary expertise. The ‘T-shaped’ graduate is one who is equally at home in the knowledge-centred work of their discipline (i.e., the stem of the ‘T’) and in work with individuals of diverse education, language, culture, beliefs, and values both within their organization and outside (i.e., the arms of the ‘T’). Key to his teaching are empathy, experience and reflection. Dr. Fleisig is a recipient of the 2018 OCUFA Teaching Award.

What advice do you have for the McMaster Engineering GRIT Tank Competitors?
“Empathize with your user/customer. Immerse yourself in the lives of your users/customers to discover their stories, what is important to them, and what they need.”

The Start-up Pro: Dr. Monika Yazdanian

Monika Yazdanian is the Director of the Forge, the startup incubator for McMaster University and the greater Hamilton population. The Forge was founded in 2015 and has supported over 100 companies that have raised a total of over $20 MM. At the Forge, Monika works intensively with clients engaged in tech-based, scalable ventures. Monika has previously worked at the University of Toronto, at the Ministry of the Attorney general, at a software startup, and as a freelance journalist for the Globe and Mail and Maclean’s.  She holds a Ph.D. in nanoscience from Cornell University in New York and an LL.B. from Western University in London Ontario.

What advice do you have for the McMaster Engineering GRIT Tank Competitors?
“Don’t lose sight of your ideals – do good work and try to make a difference.”

Read more about how DECA prepares students for engineering education