April 29, 2022

UCalgary community pitches innovative startup ideas at Launchpad Liftoff Competition

Seven teams participate in competition, with sustainable technologies startup Neocycle winning the grand prize
Arshia Mostoufi and Ramin Kahidi
Members of Neocycle, Arshia Mostoufi and Ramin Kahidi (pictured) and Subasthika Thangadurai (not pictured), won first prize.

Students and researchers from the University of Calgary took to the virtual stage to present their innovative startup ideas at the second annual Launchpad Liftoff Competition hosted by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, in partnership with the Schulich School of Engineering. Concepts ranged from improving health and wellness to bettering travel experiences to addressing environmental sustainability.

Launchpad is UCalgary’s flagship co-curricular entrepreneurship program, enabling students, researchers, and postdocs from all faculties and departments to become founders and changemakers in their fields. This year’s program kicked off in October 2021, involving 99 participants on 27 teams from six faculties. It ran for six months and featured workshops, mentoring and coaching, prototype funding, and more than $20,000 in prizes to celebrate and reward participant creativity and teamwork.

Keri Damen and Bill Rosehart

Keri Damen, executive director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, and Bill Rosehart, professor and dean, Schulich School of Engineering.

Envisioned by the Schulich School of Engineering in 2019, the Launchpad program helps bolster resumes and early-career experience, build entrepreneurial thinking skills, and encourage participants to make an impact by finding problems worth solving. “Schulich’s idea behind Launchpad was to create a pan-UCalgary, co-curricular entrepreneurship program for people from all faculties to participate and enhance their entrepreneurial thinking skills while developing innovative solutions across all disciplines,” said Dr. Bill Rosehart, P.Eng, PhD, professor and dean, Schulich School of Engineering. “It’s incredibly rewarding to witness Launchpad grow and become UCalgary’s flagship entrepreneurial experience. To this year's winners, I send my congratulations.”

This past year was Launchpad’s third year at UCalgary and the program grew to support the local community. "Our vision is to transform lives and economies through entrepreneurial thinking across all disciplines and beyond our campus. Launchpad is a fun and supportive program for anyone at UCalgary interested in creating innovative, impactful solutions. This past year we also offered the weekly Launchpad Live lectures to the public to create innovators beyond our university,” said Keri Damen, executive director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

Entrepreneurial thinking on display

The event on March 30 marked the finale of the Launchpad program and was a key celebration as part of the Hunter Hub’s first-ever Entrepreneurial Thinking Week showcasing innovators across disciplines. Sustainable technologies startup Neocycle claimed the first-place grand prize with their innovative idea for exploring recycled electronic waste as an alternative feedstock for rare earth elements (REEs).


Members of ZOHRBS, Zain Bin Kamran, Sahil Nazari, Bilal Rauf, and Osaid Abdullah, who won both the People’s Choice Award and Best Problem Definition.

The seven teams presenting at the Launchpad Liftoff Competition included:

  • Dexpert Rehab: Provided an affordable, take-home rehab system to track the healing growth of stroke and brain injury survivors
  • MRKS Aviation: Designed a low-cost, fixed-wing VTOL drone, which incorporates premium features at an affordable price
  • Neocycle: Explored recycled electronic waste as an alternative feedstock for rare earth elements (REEs)
  • Packsy: Created a functional travel kit for travellers looking to pack more efficiently and avoid spillage during travels
  • Serenity Solutions: Designed a hands-free knee crutch for patients suffering from a lower leg injury
  • SYZTMic: Developed cost-effective, real-time workout detection and feedback for fitness enthusiasts
  • ZOHRBS: Revolutionized carbon credit trading by allowing individual facilities participating in the market to meet net zero emission targets

Team awards were presented as follows:

  • First Place Grand Prize: Neocycle
  • People’s Choice Award: ZOHRBS
  • Best Problem Definition: ZOHRBS
  • Best Prototype: MRKS Aviation
  • Most Transdisciplinary Project: Packsy
  • Clearest Development Trajectory: SYZTMic
  • Best Pivot: Closet in the Clouds (did not present)

Individual awards were presented as follows:

  • Most Coachable: Sarthak Sharan, InFun
  • Most Engaged: Puneet Kaushal, Serenity Solutions
  • Best Peer Support: Michael Francis, Dexpert 
  • Female Founder: Christie Sampson, Fieldwork Solutions 

The Launchpad program will open for applications to next year’s program in August 2022.