Students, tech leaders and those with an interest in freshwater issues gathered for the first-ever B.C. AquaHacking challenge, hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and Aqua Forum, held at UBC Okanagan on Tuesday.
AquaHacking was founded by the De Gaspe Beaubien Foundation five years ago with the goal of connecting youth and young professionals with an interest in freshwater issues, clean-tech innovation, and entrepreneurship with mentors who could help them launch real-world solutions.
After five years and with funding from RBC Foundation to bring the program coast-coast, and further funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC, organizers were ready to expand westward.
“As a member of the De Gaspe Beaubien family who is from B.C., it is really exciting to see a program like this come here, to harness the skills and talents of young British Columbians in having a positive impact on freshwater in the province,” noted Aidan Mattric, founder of Swerve Labs.
“We knew to expand we needed a great local partner like OBWB, a community leader with water management expertise and a partner that would be enthusiastic and receptive to work on these issues. I can’t wait to see what develops over the next few months and beyond.”
OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears is just as keen about the challenge.
“I’m excited about the challenge because of the opportunity to work with new partners, and to raise awareness for water issues among tech professionals and build stronger ties to the university and college community,” she said.
The challenge is open to teams across Canada and it’s anticipated that the tech solutions coming out of this could deliver national, and international benefits.
The five water issues to be addressed as part of this year’s B.C. Aquachallenge include contaminants in stormwater, residential/commercial outdoor water use, flood damage in communities, mitigating the effects of invasive water species and access to potable water in Indigenous communities.
This challenge will be one of three events held across Canada in 2020. In each challenge, contestants will receive mentorship and skills-building workshops, while they compete for more than $50,000 in prizes and a secured spot in a start-up incubator.