A new Canadian and Sisler High School student is using all her intellectual potential to help find solutions for climate change and ways to reduce Canada’s energy footprint.
Guneet Uppal is one of 800 students who are attending the 2017 SHAD program in 13 universities across the country until July 28. Each year, the month-long program presents youth with a design engineering challenge to innovate and come up with a new product or service that will help solve a current economic or social problem applying STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) disciplines to real life challenges. This year, the students are tackling climate change.
SHAD, a registered Canadian charity, aims to empower high school students from Grade 10 to 12 to recognize their abilities and envision their potential as future leaders and change makers. Uppal said leading new initiatives in her school is one of her goals after she leaves the program.
"I believe that learning about skills is about exposure," said the Grade 11 student who moved to Canada from India three years ago. "The more you get exposed to different people, different environments, the more you’re going to learn.
"All that experience is going to come into use later in your life at some point. (You have) to expose yourself to things as soon as possible so that you’re prepared later on for any other time you may need (the skills)."
Students are selected through a competitive process and are recognized as top performers and potential leaders who demonstrate creativity, initiative and aptitude to make changes. According to Uppal, she’s has learned more about the new country she now calls home.
"With SHAD I felt like it would be a good learning opportunity for me to learn more about what Canada really is because even after being here for three years, there’s still a lot more to learn."
The 16-year-old girl is exploring another part of Canada at the University of Calgary. SHAD exposes students to many distinct experiences. She said they’ve done a variety of different activities such as learning about business and marking plans, public speaking and engaging in physical recreational activities like rock climbing.
"It’s something I wouldn’t have done if I was by myself. In a team work environment, everything seems a bit easier," she commented. "It’s been really amazing so far. We’ve had all these varieties of lectures. It’s never been about one thing all day. We’re halfway through the program, and it doesn’t feel like it."
Teddy Katz, a spokesperson for SHAD said most students call the program "transformational when they are brought together with other like-minded and driven students from around the country who are passionate about STEAM and are looking to make a difference."
"Being part of the SHAD network, getting hands on experience and being challenged in new ways gives them a new confidence to get started," he said.
Uppal said the program was more than what she expected.
"It’s really interesting to see the amount of talent other people have and share my own."
SHAD teamed up with many experts to help youth understand the multiple aspects of this issue and to serve as mentors and judges. The engineering challenge concludes in the SHAD-John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup, SHAD’s annual national awards which will be handed out in Toronto on October 26.
To learn more about the program, go to www.shad.ca