What's Happening

Using STEAM, Social Innovation & Open Data to Create a Better World


2 years ago

On March 5th, 2016, over 40 students between the ages of 12-29 came out to participate in 6 Social, “STEAM meets Social Innovation”, a 12 hour experiential learning event hosted by the Educational Research and Innovation Hub (ihub)and The Royal Conservatory—The Learning Through The Arts.

The day began with a breakout session in which the youth drove the conversation about social issues that mattered to them. Later, these issues were broadly categorized into: environment, health, education, economy, community and equality. Students then broke into groups based on their diverse skillsets and interests and were equipped with open data and tech tools to support their team outputs. Some of the tech tools available on-site were app development platforms such as MAD-Learn and PencilCase, fundraising platforms such as Fundrazer, website software such as Wordpress, business development app Strategyzer, and more. 6 Social participants were encouraged to use their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math skills) to produce a minimum viable product, or a prototype depending on their skills level. Throughout the day students engaged in a variety of hands-on learning activities and workshops pertaining to areas supporting their team outputs such as idea generation, idea validation, paper prototyping, pitching and workshops about open data and the supporting tech tools available for the day.

Local Niagara based open data startup, Rel8ted.to, was on-site to host an hour-long open data workshop and provide context about Open Data Day for attendees. Rel8ted.to also provided mentoring support and sat on the judging panel, probing youth during their pitches about how they could use open data in the next stage of development of their MVP or prototype. Various other mentors from The Royal Conservatory of Music-Learning Through the Arts, ihub, Brock University and the District School Board of Niagara were also present to support students in a full day of experiential learning.

The day wrapped up with student teams pitching their team outputs (such as an app, a social media campaign and more) in a “Community Showcase”, which welcomed parents and local community members. The judging panel and the Community Showcase audience were blown away by the quality of pitches delivered from our “STEAM meets Social Innovation” teams, many of which were pitching for the first time. Judging criteria was based on: Most Innovative, Most Likely to Succeed, Best Business Idea, Most Thoughtful, Most Creative Pitch and Most Diverse Group-everyone walked away with a prize!

One of the participants wrote in their testimonial, “An amazing event that gives youth the opportunity to come together and brainstorm ideas together in a safe environment where everyone is welcome. It encouraged youth to speak their mind, be confident and grow.” This speaks volumes about what students took away from the event, and this response was echoed over and over again by “STEAM meets Social Innovation” participants. With more access to information (thanks to open data) we can utilize knowledge as power and collaborate to find solutions to pressing social issues. Using STEAM skills, advancing technology, open data and passion, we can create a better world through social innovation.

A series of community partners made this event possible including, BioLinc, DSBN, Brock University Students’ Union, Niagara College, Brock University Faculty of Education,Niagara College Student Administrative Council, Rel8ed.to, IBM, Kevin Unger Photography, Brock Computer Science Club and Innovate Niagara. This event was also made possible by the generous funds received from the Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Day Grant.