When Alberta Innovates first started the program in 2009, the goal was to support university student teams from Alberta in acquiring and developing research skills in the newly emerging field of synthetic biology, and to prepare them for the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition held annually in Boston, Massachusetts (United States).
Since then, the program extended its opportunities also to high-school, and even middle-school teams from Alberta. It also expanded beyond synthetic biology into other STEM areas, such as new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Nanotechnology (Nano), and strengthened its emphasis on entrepreneurship and critical 21st century skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication, and sustainable practices.
Over the years, geekStarter teams experienced success not only in iGEM but in other renowned international competitions as well, such as Microsoft Imagine Cup or BIOMOD. Many alumni found their passion while being part of the program, and were inspired to pursue studies in areas related to their authentic project work. Others have turned their real-world project experience into creating companies and employment opportunities in the fields of synthetic biology, Nano, and ICT.
Offered by MindFuel with funding from Anonymous Donor, RBC, NSERC, and Motorola Solutions Foundation, the geekStarter program continues to provide Alberta’s youth with exceptional research and entrepreneurial experiences and to prepare them in exponential technologies and emerging STEM fields such as synthetic biology, new information and communication technologies, and nanotechnology. The support available includes workshops, learning resources, financial assistance, as well as access to mentors and subject matter experts from relevant fields.