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For third- and fourth-year Bachelor of Computer Science students Jack Humphrey and Christopher Mazur, showcasing their project on network optimization at Parliament Hill was an opportunity that opened doors and forged connections.
Held in the National Arts Centre, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) on the Hill is a two-day conference, running February 26-27, geared towards connecting college and institute leaders with parliamentarians. The Student Showcase did just that, offering students from across Canada in any academic discipline the opportunity to take a project of their own making and present it to those attending. Colleges and institutes nominated students in late 2019, and selected projects highlighted innovative ideas on how to partner with post-secondary institutions to impact future direction and better their communities.
The event was afforded to five Okanagan College students, Aubrey Nickerson, Christopher Mazur, Jack Humphrey, Logan Costa-Hemingway and Kyle Barnes, each working alongside instructors and classmates on their projects. Of the 44 presentations lining the halls of the National Arts Centre, the Okanagan College teams represented three of them with their respected efforts in the areas of network optimization, hydroponics and geothermal exchange systems.
Nickerson, Mazur and Humphrey presented on network optimization. The trio of OC computer science students joined forces for the NSERC GPERF 2 category, and have been working with WTFast (“What the Fast”) on a project focused on reducing latency and network jitter through machine learning. The team has been delving into a variety of factors that might slow down or speed up connectivity, with the goal of pointing WTFast in the right direction before they invest in new tech solutions. The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) offers funding to students and faculty working on research and innovation projects.
“We had the privilege to discuss the merits of how colleges can impact communities and small businesses through outreach and grants,” says Humphrey.
“This coincided with our project, as our work not only benefits local communities, but the insights and knowledge have gone toward academic papers that can be accessed and used globally.”
Mazur adds that the time spent in Ottawa was “an excellent motivator, and talking with other students about their accomplishments and how approaches converge and differ is something I always look forward to.”
Logan Costa-Hemingway, a student in the College’s Electronic Engineering Technology (ELEN) program shared his work on an innovative new geothermal exchange system. He created a weather-proof in-ground temperature monitor for the system, which showcases the ability of a greenhouse that can run regardless of the weather or season.
His classmate Kyle Barnes also presented an NSERC-supported project in the area of hydroponics, this one involving hydroponics solutions for a mid-sized lettuce-growing farm. The project has potential to be used in an array of real-world farming situations to identify plant health and promote better crops.
Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, who was also in attendance for the two-day event on the Hill, adds, “we’re proud of these students for the innovative and collaborative work they demonstrated through these projects, and the way in which they represented Okanagan College on the national stage. This showcase highlights the importance of applied learning in post-secondary. It’s one of the many ways our College continues to take learning beyond the classroom for the benefit of our students, our industry partners, our region and the province.
Beyond the Showcase, students had the chance to sit in on meetings alongside government and education officials, with opportunities to network and debrief. The event finished with a panel for students focused on advocacy within the federal sphere, and reconciliation in education, rounding out the dynamic two-day event.