Telus, IEEE Canada earmark $20K for student prize

A student competition sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Telus aims to get students thinking about how they can apply their academic skills to projects in the real world.

Students in their

final year of study in a technology or engineering program will be able to, either individually or as part of a team, submit a project in the area of information computing and telecommunications technologies for a chance to win $20,000.

Janet Bradley, IEEE Canada’s student activities chair, said they are always looking to provide opportunities for their student members as well as encourage new membership. IEEE has over 3000 student members in Canada, and students would already have been working on the project as part of their final year of study.

Bradley said they’re looking for projects promoting nanotechnology, photonics, and any of the cutting-edge newer technologies being explored, epically in the realm of communications. They want something innovative, which could actually be implemented in the near future.

“We’re looking for our students to be creative, and get those innovative juices flowing when they’re working on their final undergraduate projects,” said Bradley. “Taking it beyond their engineering studies and think about how it could be applied in the field.”

The first annual competition is already underway, with over a dozen submissions being screened at the branch level and passed on to a regional level. Up to three projects from the East, Central and West regions will move on to the final competition in September, when Telus will fly the finalists to Vancouver to present their projects to a panel of industry judges.

Telus chief technology officer Ibrahim Gedeon said the company got involved because it has noticed university engineering programs seem to be more academically focused, and a lot of the students Telus hires haven’t thought about how to apply their skills to the commercial world.

“I think the average engineer should be an applied scientist,” said Gedeon. “We decided to put a stake in the ground and help guide them to something that industry can leverage.”

Gedeon said when choosing the winner they’ll be looking for three things. Have they thought of how to apply it, is there some actual unique innovation involved, and what is the value proposition, which he said may be the most important consideration.

“We tend to get a lot of pure science in these projects; we’re trying to give them a sense of what they’d do in real life,” said Gedeon. “As an engineer at Telus I’d say this is the idea, this is the value proposition, and this is how it would be used.”

The hope is they’ll use this experience when they graduate and move into the work world, where they’ll be asked to look at the business aspects to their work.

And that could come soon for some of the projects. Gedeon said the students will own the intellectual property, but Telus Ventures, its corporate venture capital division, will be one option available to the students. As well, if their idea isn’t a fit for Telus they could be referred to a venture capitalist like the Business Development Bank of Canada, or a Telus partner like Nortel Networks or Siemens.

“We lay no claims on the intellectual property at all, our job is to make sure we get as many Nortels developed in Canada as possible, and if Telus was a catalyst that would be great,” said Gedeon.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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