Helpful hacking – Dal News – Dalhousie University

Innovacorp and ShiftKey Labs — the Dal-hosted information and communications technology sandbox — set the stage for the first-ever Halifax Smart Energy App Challenge this fall.

Kicking off with a “Hackathon” event in late September, 40 participants across 10 teams were challenged to develop a new app to benefit participants in Halifax’s Solar City program, which offers homeowners and businesses in Halifax solar energy options.

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Students Build Online Resumes with the help of WordPress, Microsoft Azure

On November 16, students from Dalhousie, St. Mary’s, NSCC and NSCAD came out to learn more about the advantages of building an online résumé. Dalhousie’s three Microsoft Student Partners hosted the event to teach students about WordPress, the Azure Cloud and useful online résumé techniques.

Microsoft Student Partners
Microsoft Student Partners

Students gained valuable skills and learned how an online résumé is a great tool to stand out as a candidate in today’s job market. Students were also given an introduction to a Content Management System and to the Azure Cloud.

ShiftKey Labs was happy to provide the venue for this event as well as lend promotional support to the schools involved to get the message out to students!

Special thanks to Colin Melia, Microsoft Regional Director, for leading this session.

Students Heed Advice at Common Founder Pitfalls Event

In the afternoon of November 5, presenter Colin Conrad shared the common pitfalls faced by founders when building teams, searching for capital and determining equity shares. Based on Noam Wasserman’s Founder’s Dilemmas, we discussed what the data has to say about the characteristics of a strong founding team, common founder pitfalls, and the statistical impact of key early decisions on a startup company two years down the road.

Colin Conrad, a PhD student at Dalhousie studying through the Faculties of Management and Computer Science, did a terrific job delivering this presentation to students. Colin has been providing consulting and research services for six post-revenue startup companies in the space of E-commerce or Health since 2012. He also led RealLike, a “gracefully” failed Offline-to-Online point of sales platform for retailers. We were very grateful to learn from his successes and failures along the way and to have him share his experiences with students.

ShiftKey Labs is proud to have planned and organized this event. Students from all partner institutions, including Dal, SMU, NSCAD, NSCC and Volta Labs, were in attendance at the event.

Design Thinking: A Framework for Innovation

On November 4, ShiftKey Labs members took part in Design Thinking event. Facilitated by Jenny Baechler, participants learned about the tools and techniques of design thinking as an approach to innovation. We explored ideas from some of the leaders in design thinking including Tim Brown, David Kelly and Roger Martin. These leaders have made design thinking an important piece of the start-up ecosystem.  Topics included building a culture of innovation and creative problem solving. These topics provide teams with resources to tackle early-stage ideation – strategies for brainstorming, framing opportunities and creating human-centred solutions that have an impact. Students loved taking part in this hands-on, high-energy workshop!

Jenny Baechler

Facilitator Jenny Baechler is the Associate Director of the Corporate Residency MBA program and a Lecturer for the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University. She holds an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies from the European University Centre for Peace Studies and is a PhD Candidate in Dalhousie’s Interdisciplinary PhD program. Her research integrates the fields of public administration, peace/conflict studies, international development studies and complexity theory and explores opportunities for and barriers to cross-boundary collaboration (whole-of-government) within the context of international stabilization and peacebuilding efforts.

ShiftKey Labs would like to say a huge thanks to Ms. Baechler for facilitating the workshop and for all students who participated!

Design Thinking Workshop

Dalhousie University Faculty of Computer Science Society “Game Jam”

The Dalhousie University Faculty of Computer Science Society, in collaboration with ShiftKey Labs, presented Game Jam over the weekend of October 24-25. This event provided the opportunity for all interested parties to come out and make a small game over the course of the weekend. Collaboration was key at this event, as those more experienced lent a helping hand to participants who had never even heard of a Game Jam before! This event offered an early opportunity for Computer Science students to get some hands-on learning and also allowed for those with a general interest to try their hand at game creation.

For those with less experience, the society hosted a tutorial session leading up to the Game Jam on October 14. The session was focused on how to use Unity which is a very popular engine used by teams of all sizes and suitable for games of all sizes; Unity is also one of the most accessible tools out there. The session taught the basic controls and functionality of the engine and how to set up a project.

ShiftKey Labs was thrilled to have sponsored this collaborative hands-on event by providing the venue as well as offering promotional support to get the word out to interested members at NSCAD, NSCC, SMU and Dalhousie University.

ShiftKey Labs was JAM-PACKED for this exciting event!
ShiftKey Labs was JAM-PACKED for this exciting event!

Game Demo Screenshots

A clone of the classic game "Asteroids"
A clone of the classic game “Asteroids”
A "university simulator" game
A “university simulator” game

Big Data Congress Education Day

Halifax hosted one of the world’s largest premiere Big Data for business conferences from October 19-21. The conference brought together business, government, and academia to discover how Big Data is contributing to business productivity and to our day-to-day lives. Partners of the conference included big names like Google, Boeing, Cisco, IBM, Hitachi, Adobe and NTT Data.

During the final day of this exciting conference there was an Education Event specifically designed for high school students to connect them to entrepreneurship and technology. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is supported approximately 600 students from all across the province to attend the event and hear about the impact that technology has on the world around them. The focus of the day was entrepreneurship, technology, hands-on learning, and engagement – which was perfectly aligned with our goals here at ShiftKey Labs. This portion of the event included guest speakers, mentoring opportunities, idea generation, workshops and more!

ShiftKey Labs had a great day promoting NS Sandboxes to high school students and facilitating a business model design challenge during this event.

Big Data Educationsandbox

The Human Face of Big Data Movie Night

The Human Face of Big Data

On October 22, ShiftKey Labs had the pleasure of hosting a viewing of the award-winning movie The Human Face of Big Data as well as a post-movie discussion led by Stan Matwin, Director of the Institute for Big Data Analytics. During the discussion, Dr. Matwin explored key points in the movie and their impact on our personal and professional lives. This event was open to anyone who was interested – and we certainly saw a lot of interest. The timing of the event could not have been better, following on the heels of another very exciting big data event in Halifax – the Big Data Productivity Congress 2015.

ShiftKey Labs planned and executed this event and promoted it cross-institutionally. We were pleased to present both an acclaimed film and speaker to our members and broader community.

For anyone who missed it, the movie synopsis is featured below:

The Human Face of Big Data captures an extraordinary revolution sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, healthcare, and everyday life. It’s already enabling us

  • to provide healthier lives for our children;
  • to provide our seniors with independence while keeping them safe;
  • to help us conserve precious resources like water and energy;
  • to alert us to tiny changes in our health, weeks or years before we develop a life-threatening illness;
  • to peer into our own individual genetic makeup;
  • to create new forms of life;
  • and soon, as many predict, to re-engineer our own species. And we’ve barely scratched the surface…

This massive gathering and analyzing of data in real time is allowing us to address some of humanity’s biggest challenges. Yet, as Edward Snowden and the release of the NSA documents has shown, the accessibility of all this data can come at a steep price.

Stan Matwin
Dr. Stan Matwin and students at the “Big Data” movie night


Emerging Web Technologies Meetup – Web Worker Tutorial

Emerging Web Technologies Meetup

Do you find it difficult trying keep up with the fast-paced development in web technologies? This web-based meet-up was created as a way to learn more about these emerging technologies and tackle problems that may arise in our day-to-day lives. This can also serve as a space to work together on a common idea or problem that is plaguing the industry and as a platform to pitch an innovative idea for feedback and collaboration opportunities.

The October 13 meetup featured technology experts, students and members from the broader community who have a keen interest in technology. These meetups will happen regularly and organizers are always looking for newcomers. Whether you are a student, an entrepreneur, a professional or just someone who would like to learn more – keep an eye on the ShiftKey Labs Calendar for more information on future meetups!

Dalhousie Computer Science Society In-House Conference (DCSI) Fireside Chat

As part of the DCSI conference, ShiftKey Labs organized a “fireside chat” on October 1. The purpose of this fireside chat was to foster informal and meaningful conversations between industry leaders, experienced entrepreneurs, and researchers. The event was called “The Transition of Tech Research into Startups” and featured three experienced startup founders:

  • Ozge Yeloglu: Co-Founder of TopLog
  • Jordan Kyriakidis: President and CEO of QRA
  • Colin Conrad: Dalhousie University Faculty of Computer Science PhD student

The event was moderated by Grant Wells, the Program Manager at ShiftKey Labs. It featured brief presentations from all guest speakers, a question and answer period and a networking reception for all attendees. ShiftKey Labs planned and executed this event as a part of the larger in-house conference and promoted it cross-institutionally to students and interested parties at Dal, SMU, NSCAD, NSCC and Volta Labs.

Cozy Atmosphere for our Fireside Chat
Cozy Atmosphere for our Fireside Chat

Shad students attend WordPress workshop

ShiftKey Labs opened its doors to a group of high school students as part of their month-long Dalhousie Shad 2015 experience by hosting a workshop on WordPress. Ten students participated in a 3-hour hands-on tutorial on how to build a web presence using the platform. Students also toured the ShiftKey Labs collaboration space to learn about the program and chat with one of our resident student members about his experience creating a technology-focused start-up.

It was a fun afternoon working with such a great group of bright and engaged students.

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