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Student teams present solutions to community challenges

September 12, 2022

Six teams of UVic engineering and science students developed high-impact, high-tech solutions for the wider community last term – from a web app that connects local emergency shelters, to a climate-focused mobile app for teens that’s being adopted in several local schools.

 About 30 students who comprised the teams recently presented their projects to more than 100 academics, industry leaders and community members gathered at the Esquimalt Gorge Pavilion as part of the inaugural conference of the INSPIRE: STEM for Social Impact program.


Directed by Daniela Damian, a professor of software engineering, INSPIRE is a program of research and community-based innovation that engages science and engineering students from underrepresented groups. These students are connected with industry mentors and community partners to address society’s most pressing challenges, especially in the area of sustainability.

Using program sponsor IBM’s Apprentice Garage approach, the UVic teams spent their summers developing Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) as solutions to each of their community partner’s problems.

At the conference in early September, students presented these MVPs and told stories of their development. Despite challenges, pivots, and a busy schedules, every team delivered impressive and innovative solutions: 

  • Herluma, a web app connecting local shelters for individuals facing homelessness and easing pressure from support workers;
  • ClimAct, a climate action mobile app aimed at teenagers currently being adopted in a number of middle and secondary schools in Greater Victoria;
  • an accessible mobile app for the Victoria Brain Injury Society
  • a web application compiling local climate mapping data and interpreting it for visitors with suggestions on how to act on the information;
  • a prototype trail counter and software that collects detailed data on visitor habits within Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary; and
  • and from the Climate Impact of Web Browsing project came a Redbrick web application that calculates the carbon impact of any given website to spread awareness and set industry standards for mitigating climate impact.

Community partners, for whom the solutions were developed, spoke at the end of each presentation, describing both their pride in the students and how the impact the MVP would have on the community and, for some projects, the world.

Before dinner, a panel of academics and industry leaders reflected on the importance of experiential learning experiences and the innovative, industry-ready students they produce. They included: Damian; UVic Vice President Academic and Provost Elizabeth Croft; UVic President Kevin Hall; Michelle Mahovlich, Langford’s Director of Engineering and Public Works; and WSP’s BC Ground Engineering Lead Megan Atkinson. The event was moderated by INSPIRE Apprentice Garage Program Coordinator Ali Hamdy.

To learn more about this year’s INSPIRE projects, see how their teams are continuing to innovate, and stay up-to-date about the program, subscribe to the INSPIRE newsletter and stay tuned for their upcoming podcast series “Elevate You.”