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Thorpe awards helping students step into College this fall

Okanagan College Media Release

Meghan Stayberg is only 18, but she's already hosted multiple charity fundraisers, developed a leadership training program and holds a black belt in taekwondo.

Her achievements and community involvement recently earned her new recognition — a $2,500 award towards her first year at Okanagan College.

Thorpe gift

Stayberg is one of six students in the South Okanagan to receive a Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends scholarship. The annual $2,500 awards are given to high school students who demonstrate good grades while contributing to their communities.

"I was ecstatic when I learned I would be receiving this award," says Stayberg, who plans to become a secondary school teacher. "It costs a lot to get through school. This will take a load off my shoulders and will make the transition so much easier for me."

Kyra Marsden is another recipient of this year's scholarship, and will be entering the Water Engineering Technology program at Okanagan College Kelowna campus in September. Marsden, who has helped run community events like a haunted house for children in Summerland, says it feels good to be recognized for giving back to others.

"What I love about volunteering is seeing how what you do makes an impact for others,” says Marsden. “This award will help me to relieve stress and let me be able to focus my time more on learning the material than paying for the material that I’m learning.” 

Joining Stayberg and Marsden in receiving this year’s scholarships are Shaina Finlayson, Stephanie Legrange, Vayda Poetsch and Erika Spear.

“Rick and Yasmin Thorpe are making an incredible difference for students by lightening their financial loads,” says Kathy Butler, executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “The Thorpe’s contributions to the College and student’s lives are significant, and we’re grateful for their continued support.”

Helping young people is meaningful for Rick and Yasmin Thorpe, who have been giving scholarships to students at Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan for more than a decade.

“We’re always excited about young people because they are the future leaders,” says Rick. “I always encourage students that if they’re ever in a position to give back, to do so as well.”

Each year, the Thorpes host an event where they get an opportunity to meet the recipients and their families in person. This year’s awards ceremony took place June 19.

“Watching the faces of the students and their enthusiasm for starting a new journey that has to do with learning is so wonderful to watch,” says Yasmin. “Their excitement is contagious.”

In total, the Thorpes have awarded 59 scholarships with a value of $127,250 to Okanagan College students.

College breaks ground on new Health Sciences Centre in Kelowna


Minister Melanie Mark, Advanced Education, Skills and Training, was at Okanagan College today, July 19, to kick off construction on the College’s new 2,800 square-metre (30,000 square-foot) Health Sciences Centre at the Kelowna campus.

Minister Mark was joined by Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College; Susan Brown, VP and COO Hospitals and Communities for Interior Health; Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College; Maran Kokoszka a Pharmacy Technician student at the Kelowna campus, and other OC students, officials, partners and community members, in officially breaking ground on the $18.9-million building (toward which the Provincial Government is providing $15.4 million).


Minister Melanie Mark July 2018
Minister Melanie Mark
Jim Hamilton July 2018
Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton
 Breaking Ground Health Sciences July 2018
Groundbreaking ceremony - front row (L-R): Maran Kokoszka, Yvonne Moritz, Minister Melanie Mark, Jim Hamilton
and Susan Brown
 Groundbreaking Health Sciences July 2018
Minister Mark with OC student and officials and Interior Health officials

New Go-kart camp for girls revs up excitement about trades career paths
Okanagan College Media Release

A new go-kart camp at Okanagan College is offering youth more than just the thrill of sitting in the driver’s seat this summer – it’s giving girls ages 9-12 a week of hands-on training and the chance to test-drive a career in the trades.

Girls Can Go Kart Too 2018 1Girls can Go-Kart Too! is a pilot project by the College and the Industry Training Authority (ITA). The ITA stepped forward with more than $6,000 in support to help bring the project to life as part of the College’s popular CampOC summer camps.

“Our goal in working with the College to create this camp was to give young girls an engaging, exciting and welcoming glimpse into what a career in the skilled trades is all about,” explains Gary Herman, CEO of the ITA.

This week a dozen girls stepped into the Automotive shop at the Kelowna campus, tackling everything from designing their go-karts to working on small engines, changing the oil, replacing tires, testing and fixing brakes, and installing ignition kill switches – all under the watchful eye of College instructors.

Jordan Chahley is one of those campers.

“What I love about this camp is that we learned how to do design and build our go-karts,” says the 11-year old. “Last year I went to the 3D printing camp, but this one is different and for me it was a lot more fun. When my mom suggested it, I knew this was the one for me. After camp is done, I look forward to being able to help my dad change the oil.”

While the camp was designed to help girls build their skills in the shop, connecting them with mentors was another priority.

“The girls are learning from Red Seal Endorsed College instructors and they’re also getting mentorship, support and encouragement from the Women in Trades Team, WITT Industry Mentors and WITT foundation participants,” explains Nancy Darling, Program Administrator for the College’s Women in Trades Training Initiative (WITT).

“And that last part – connecting them with mentors and role models, young women they can identify with – is perhaps most important. The hands-on training they’re getting is awesome, but those opportunities to interact with and receive encouragement from women in trades will hopefully be extra motivating and meaningful to these girls.”

Girls Can Go Kart Too 2018 2After ensuring their go-karts were in good working order, the girls had a chance to put their creativity to work painting and decorating their carts.

Today, they took to the racetrack – which they also designed – to cap off the week with a friendly race and a BBQ with their parents, their instructors and officials from the College and the ITA.

“Above all, we hope this group of girls had fun and learned a lot this week, and hopefully their experience at the College sparks an interest or plants a seed that leads them to think about the skilled trades as part of their future plans for education,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College.

More information about the College’s Women in Trades Training Initiative is available at

VFX boot camp shines a spotlight on film industry career opportunities
Okanagan College Media Release

VFX July 2018If the visual marvels of summer blockbusters inspire you, an upcoming boot camp focused on VFX could help turn that inspiration into a career.

A collaboration between Okanagan College and the Vancouver Film School (VFS) is bringing about a weeklong boot camp designed to help students learn industry software basics, production process and how industry professionals create visual effects, or VFX, illusions.

Designed to boost portfolios of beginner to intermediate graphic artists and film artists, students will complete a fully executed shot using industry techniques in a suite of different graphics and video tools.

The boot camp will be led by Henrique Reginato, whose film credits include
Foxcatcher, Dark Matter, Gotham, Almost Human, Timeless, and Minority Report. He’ll pass on some key skills in the industry standard software, Nuke, and offer up his insights into the VFX production pipeline.

“The growing animation and VFX industry has created the opportunity for us to partner with the Vancouver Film School, says Dennis Silvestrone, Director, Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.

“Bringing this unique training experience to the Okanagan is key in our efforts to continue to develop resources that support the growth of the area. And with the strong economic forecast for significant growth, now is a great time to be building a career within the industry.”

The weeklong course, which runs from July 30 to Aug. 3, will be presented at the Okanagan Innovation Centre at 460 Doyle Ave., in downtown Kelowna.

To learn more and register, visit

Registration is $500, plus GST. A special $50 discount is available to SD23 High School, Okanagan College and UBCO students and faculty, as well as Bardel, Yeti Farm and Hyper Hippo staff.


College info session shines a light on green building careers

penticton campus pageAaron Spohr never could have predicted that a quick glance at a sign while driving past Okanagan College would open his eyes to a new career and change the way he looked at the world. An upcoming info session at the Penticton campus is inviting others to follow in his footsteps and join the next wave of sustainable construction managers.

Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program is a hosting an information session on Wednesday, July 4 from 6 – 7 p.m. The location is a fitting one – visitors will have a chance to tour the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, which in 2016 was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada by Corporate Knights magazine.

Attendees will have a chance to meet instructors and learn about the College’s two-year SCMT diploma program which gives graduates the technical knowledge, business savvy, and practical skills required to effectively manage construction projects of varying size and complexity.

The diploma program (initially a three-year pilot) launched in 2014. The first cohort graduated last spring. Since then, Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program, says the success stories she has heard back from SCMT alumni have been nothing short of inspiring.

“Our grads have stepped into all kinds of opportunities in management and technologist roles,” notes Vaillancourt. “It’s definitely not a cookie-cutter career. It’s for anyone who is interested in blending sustainability, technology and construction. Quite a number of our grads have found it a springboard to management or supervisory roles, and some have started their own successful businesses.”

Aaron Spohr is one of those grads who has used the program to grow his career locally.

Originally from Kamloops, Spohr was driving through Penticton a few years ago when he spotted a signboard outside the College advertising for a new program focused on sustainable construction.

“I had a little construction experience and a bit of an interest in sustainability, so when I got home and thought about it further, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to marry those two interests. 

Spohr enrolled in the program and moved with his family to Penticton. While still a student, he was hired on as a Project Coordinator for Ritchie Custom Homes. He graduated last summer and is now a Project Manager. 

“I want to be on the right side of history,” he says. “The time is now for us to look at how we can build in a more sustainable way. More and more people in the industry are getting onboard, so we definitely need people with the skills and knowledge to make it happen.”

“It’s very gratifying to get to go to work every day and know you’re part of building a home that can have the least impact on the environment while being a beautiful, functional custom home for someone.”

Spohr says the program transformed his outlook beyond the jobsite as well.

“For us, it changed the way we go to the grocery store. The choices we make – like bringing along re-usable bags for produce. It really helped clarify and change some lifestyle choices. It gave me a practical application for a sentiment I was feeling and led to a career that matters – one that I take a lot of pride in.”

Attendees of the info session will also have a chance to hear about a new offering launching this fall – the Post-Diploma Sustainability Studies Certificate.

“Like the diploma, the certificate is designed to meet the industry demand for managers and technologists who are specialized in sustainable construction,” explains Vaillancourt. “It will appeal to professionals with a diploma in engineering, architecture, or construction management who are looking to further their training.”

The new certificate will take two years to complete and will be delivered through a combination of online delivery and a short but intensive residency during each of the four terms.

More information is available at

Research trio advocate more work on AI security

What if someone hacked a traffic sign with a few well-placed dots, so your self-driving car did something dangerous, such as going straight when it should have turned right?

Don’t think it’s unlikely – it’s already happened – and an Okanagan College professor and his colleagues from France are among those saying that researchers have to invest more effort in system design and security to deal with hacks and security issues.

Youry Khmelelvsky

A research paper, co-authored by Okanagan College Computer Science Professor Dr. Youry Khmelevsky, and presented recently at an international conference held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (the world’s largest technical professional society), summarizes the research that has already been done into the threats and dangers associated with the machine-learning processes that underpin autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars.

Their paper also points to the needs to take research and tool development for “deep learning” to a new level. (Deep Learning – DL - is what makes facial recognition, voice recognition, and self-driving cars possible. Deep Learning systems mimic neural networks – like your brain – that can take data and process it based on information processing and communication patterns. For a good description of how artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning connect to each other and the role they play in our daily lives, click here.)

The paper was authored by Dr. Gaétan Hains, Arvid Jakobsson (of Huawei Parallel and Distributed Algorithms Lab at the Huawei Paris Research Centre) and Khmelevsky. “Safety of DL systems is a serious requirement for real-life systems and the research community is addressing this need with mathematically-sound but low-level methods of high computational complexity,” notes the trio’s paper. They point to the need for significant work yet to be done on security, software, and verification to ensure that systems relying on deep learning are as safe as they could be.

“It sounds very abstract,” says Khmelelvsky, “but it isn’t. It’s here today whether it’s in your car or a device that recognizes your voice and commands.”

"Deep Learning-based artificial intelligence has had immense success in applications like image recognition and is already implemented in consumer products,” notes Jakobsson. “But the power of these techniques comes at an important cost compared to ‘classic algorithms’: it is harder to understand why they work, and harder to verify that they work correctly. Before deploying DL based AI in safety critical domains, we need better tools for understanding and exhaustively exploring the behaviour of these systems, and this paper is a work in this direction."

Do Hains, Jakobsson and Khmelevsky have the answer to prevent hacks that could send your car going straight, when it should go left? Not yet, but they are developing some research proposals that could help ensure that your car, and its systems based on artificial intelligence, don’t get fooled.

“Safe AI is an important research topic attracting more and more attention worldwide,” says Hains. “Dr. Khmelevsky brings software engineering expertise to complement my team's know-how in software correctness techniques. We expect to produce new knowledge and basic techniques to support this new trend in the industry.”