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New HELIX Summer Institute a hit for all

Pilot program to explore other industries

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The first-ever HELIX Summer Institute showcased a "design jam" at Markham Stouffville Hospital.


Call it a boot camp for entrepreneurs. Not only was the first-ever HELIX Summer Institute intensive, but some of the innovative ideas developed during the two-week program might just end up helping the frailest patients at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

HELIX is Seneca’s entrepreneurship incubator housed at Newnham Campus.

The HELIX Summer Institute is a collaboration between Seneca’s Applied Research & Innovation and the Faculty of Communication, Art & Design. The pilot was designed to increase HELIX exposure and engagement at [email protected] Campus. It drew more than 40 participants, including 16 international (India and Brazil).

“It was a huge success,” says Chris Dudley, Director, Seneca HELIX. “The interactive program provided critical-thinking skills and prepared participants to adapt to the ever-changing world in their careers or as entrepreneurs. Moving forward, we hope to run another HELIX Summer Institute.”

During two weeks in August, participants worked with HELIX partners and mentors at [email protected] Campus, Markham Stouffville Hospital and the IBM Innovation Space at the Markham Convergence Centre to develop their ideas.

Seneca student Zainab Alsadiq describes the opportunity as “a golden experience” that opened his mind to different perspectives.

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“It helped me think outside the box,” he says.

Zainab and the other participants competed in a “design jam” that focused on finding solutions to real-life challenges faced by the hospital: how can technology and new approaches be leveraged to engage patients and improve their experiences, ultimately reducing the negative effects on cognitive abilities during lengthy hospital stays?

After interacting with patients, families, staff and doctors at the hospital, six teams pitched their ideas, which included using light therapy to improve patient mood and behaviour, an app that pairs patients with volunteers, a 24-7 computer-automated “smart line” that simulates voice conversations with loved ones, and mobile sensory units that stimulate four senses.

Dr. George Arnold, Chief, Clinical Innovation and Strategic Ventures at Markham Stouffville Hospital, stresses the importance of leveraging partnerships to foster new ideas.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the patient experience and this unique program connected young entrepreneurs from Canada and abroad with patients, families, staff and doctors so they could learn about the challenges and come up with creative solutions for them,” he says.

For Donovan Dill, who teaches at Seneca’s School of International Business & Management and was one of more than 30 mentors and presenters at the summer institute, the two weeks were packed with experiential learning and sharing that raised the bar for performance.

“Seeing individuals grow along with their concepts were an absolute pleasure,” he says. “I believe the HELIX Summer Institute is a trophy that will continue to shine with each iteration.”

The HELIX Summer Institute partnered with Markham Stouffville Hospital, ventureLAB, IBM, City of Markham and York Region.

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