Student Energy Carleton Hosts First Annual Innovation Jam with Catherine McKenna

By Lucy Juneau
Photos by Chris Roussakis

Student Energy Carleton, which is trying to combat climate change through youth-led innovation, hosted the first annual Innovation Jam: Ottawa Sustainability Challenge on Nov. 9, 2017 at Carleton University attended by Catherine McKenna, federal minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

More than 78 students completed from Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College for $5,000 by collaborating in teams to create solutions for local climate change and sustainability concerns. Students pitched projects to judges who evaluated eight proposals on ingenuity, feasibility, necessity and applicability.

“We want to help students to facilitate their idea, bring them together with like-minded individuals and hopefully it will lead to action,” said Maheep Sandhu, a co-founder of Student Energy Carleton.

The winning team proposed a “complete compost” idea for a bin that is self-sealing to keep out odor and fruit flies and is easy to clean. They money will go toward developing the idea and presenting it to the City of Ottawa’s Environment and Climate Protection Committee to implement.

The second-place team pitched a “tiny house” that is affordable and environmentally friendly. They won the Hatch Prize, giving them access to the student entrepreneurship centre, Hatch, which offers mentoring, $1,500 in support, office workspace, cloud storage space and access to an entrepreneurship library.

The event included a keynote speech from McKenna and featured David Chernushenko, chair of the city’s Climate Protection Committee, and Chris Weber, Deloitte’s senior manager on Climate Change and Sustainability.

“I don’t have to convince you guys that climate change is real and I don’t have to convince you guys the cost of inaction greatly outweighs the cost of action,” said McKenna. “We need to be more ambitious.

“Young leaders play a vital role in addressing climate change. Their creative ideas and solutions are essential to move Canada towards a cleaner, more prosperous future.’”

The Social Planning Council of Ottawa donated $5,000 on behalf of Innoweave to encourage youth to take on leadership roles in sustainability.

“We wanted to draw attention to the kind of role young people are playing in transforming the economy and creating a good livelihood for themselves and for others,” said Executive Director Dianne Urquhart.

Student Energy Carleton is planning to launch a new program to foster entrepreneurial drive among Carleton students to address sustainability problems in Ottawa. The program will allow students to continue to develop their ideas with constant assistance along the way, ideally resulting in proposals to pitch.

“We’re hoping every single idea here will have a chance to continue and students can pursue and follow their passion,” said Sandhu.

McKenna spent time in the high Arctic last summer doing research on climate change with students, Inuit Elders and scientists.

“I realized then . . .  we are actually talking about people’s lives,” said McKenna. “We have to act. We have no choice.”

The Winning Team: Complete Compost


A compost bin that self-seals, keeping out odor and fruit flies, and is easy for custodians to clean. A pilot project at Carleton will make organic waste disposal bins as common as garbage bins. Success of the pilot will mean significant reduction in organic waste. The team hopes to expand this on a municipal scale.

Members: Cameron Wales, Carly Parks, Kokeb Solomon, Jackie Bastianon, Kaylin Paquette, Julia Sterling, Natalie York, Jeff Thorslund, David Hodgson

Winner of the Hatch Prize: Tiny House


Tiny houses addresses the issues of the rising cost of housing and climate change because they are affordable and environmentally sustainable. Developers are capable of producing tiny homes at a cost of $100,000. However, the team is working on a project that aims to be even more affordable. The prototype will be complete by the end of the school year.

Members: Joe Lioce, Ben Hayward, Katherine Barrett


About Student Energy Carleton

Student Energy Carleton is the first Ontario chapter of Student Energy, an international student organization committed to developing the next generation of energy and sustainability leaders. A group of Carleton students founded student Energy Carleton in December 2016.