Over the years, teams have been building innovative STEM-based solutions to a variety of real-world challenges such as detecting and removing contaminants from oilfields, fighting pine beetle infestation, breaking down fatty buildup or hair and feather residue in water treatment plants, or converting human waste into usable plastic on the space station. More examples of projects can be found on our website.
We welcome any student teams grade 7 and up from across Alberta to apply to the geekStarter program. Aside from a project aligned with the geekStarter mandate, teams must have a faculty advisor that can act on behalf of the team and has signing authority, and they must work out of a legally registered entity such as a non-profit organization, school or university.
If you are interested in mentoring with us, and feel that you have the skills, experience and availability for this role, we would love to hear from you. Depending on which teams and projects we are supporting, our mentorship needs vary from year to year and we have a mentor application and training process in place.
First off, you need to find other individuals - students and teachers - who have the interest, ability and commitment to engage in extra-curricular real-world STEM projects with tangible and potentially marketable outcomes. It is essential to find at least one teacher or faculty advisor who is willing and able to perform administrative functions on behalf of the team, as well as initiate and provide project assistance and guidance appropriate to the students’ experience and skill level. A typical team consists of 10-12 students and 2 faculty/teachers.
For student participants, one major outcome is gaining a strong skill set in their preferred STEM area along with practical competencies in project management, collaboration, communication and networking. The immersive project experience and exceptional accomplishments give geekStarter student alums a better chance to be accepted into competitive programs of studies, and to win prestigious scholarships. The program also prepares participants to become young entrepreneurs, should they wish so. Several start-ups across Alberta and Canada were built (or co-built) by past geekStarter alums. Some examples include FREDsense Technologies, Amino Labs, and Nomadogen Biotechnologies.
Aside from the exceptional learning experience it offers to their students, the geekStarter program gives teachers the opportunity to see first-hand what it feels like to be ‘the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage’ and to learn side-by-side with students. Teachers often tell us that both the learning process and the gains for students are steep and unique, and it feels very rewarding to see their students engaged in solving real-world problems.
Mentors and professionals participate in the program in various capacities and with different degrees of time commitment and involvement. Usually, such individuals contribute to the program through on-going mentorship of individual teams, on-going specialized mentorship to multiple teams (on a per need basis), co-development and/or delivery of geekStarter workshops, judging at geekStarter competitions and jamboree, or co-development of learning resources. While they often require more dedication, involvement and time commitment than typical volunteering roles, the critical and visible impact they have on students and projects makes these roles feel uniquely rewarding.
Our newly launched geekStarter membership is open to individuals who are either currently in the program, or have participated in the past, or are interested in joining as students or teachers, or wish to become involved as mentors and/ or SMEs.
To find out if you qualify for support, you will need to submit an application with us. We typically accept applications twice a year; in the fall from high-school teams, and in the summer from post-secondary teams. We offer various types of support and funding (seed funding, growth funding, materials fund, travel reimbursement etc). If you wish to learn more, please contact us.
That's ok! We have created a webinar and resources that will help you and your team identify a problem space and a particular challenge to tackle, which suits your team’s interests, skills, resources, and favorite STEM area.
Your team has the opportunity to present their project and win special awards at the Jamboree event we organize towards the end of each season. At this time, there are no scholarships available directly through geekStarter. However, because the geekStarter program is part of MindFuel, as part of our community you will gain access to information about MindFuel’s annual scholarships some of which you may qualify for. If interested, please inquire further.
Commitment for a middle or high school team is one season, usually running from November to June. However teams are encouraged to re-apply for consecutive seasons and continue to build their projects or start new projects. The collegiate season may vary from year to year but usually runs from June or July to November.
You will communicate with the team on an ongoing basis to assist with specific project needs. Communication can be in person, by email, phone call or video call. On average, the time commitment for this is 1 hour per week.
You will co-plan and deliver two team workshops per season at your team’s location. These workshops must be tailored to the team’s needs and include hands on learning relevant to the team’s project. The time commitment for this type of workshop is about 10 hours, including prep time but not including travel.
You may also assist in the development, organization, facilitation or delivery of multi-team workshops or events, provided you are available and we request your assistance. The time commitment for this type of event could be 15-20 hours.
You may also help with finding suitable resources and connections, as the need arises.
For team mentors that are assigned through the program, the commitment is one season, same as for the teams they are mentoring. For other types of mentors and professionals involved in the program the commitment varies depending on the nature of their contributions.
We do not require you to share any additional information about your professional work aside from your current company, role and skills that are beneficial to being a geekStarter mentor. However if you desire to share more about your professional work and you believe that would be valuable to the students in the geekStarter program, please do!
Skill level for students vary between schools and within their own teams. geekStarter teams are comprised of students ranging from middle school (grades 7-8) to post-secondary. It also depends on whether the team is new to the program or returning, as returning teams will likely have their own system in place to mentor new team members and will have become more resourceful over time