Winners of the 2024 Mayor’s Innovation Challenge announced

Two teams of post-secondary students were selected as winners of the annual Mayor’s Innovation Challenge hosted by the City of Kingston.

In partnership with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, and Royal Military College, the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge provides a unique opportunity for current or recently graduated post-secondary students to apply their knowledge to real-world issues and help shape the future of Kingston, according to a release from the City of Kingston.

During the 2024 Pitch Competition held on Friday, Mar. 8, 2024, at City Hall, eight teams of students presented their pitches to a group of panellists, including: 

  • Mayor Bryan Paterson, City of Kingston; 
  • Rob Beck, Client Executive, Bell Business Markets, Bell; 
  • Jim McLellan, Academic Director and Co-Founder, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre; 
  • Elspeth Murray, Associate Professor – Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Smith School of Business; 
  • Shan Jhamandas, Founding Partner, Daft Brewing; 
  • Zermaan Khan, Director of Operations & Policy, Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce. 

“The panel had some lively debate about today’s phenomenal pitches,” said Mayor Paterson. “These remarkable students took the challenge to heart, showing creativity and dedication to bettering the community in their proposals. Congratulations to all the teams for their contributions to enhancing the quality of life in Kingston.”

The City said that after deliberation, the panel announced the following winning projects: 

Smart Kingston Stream 

Baobab 

According to the release, Baobab is a platform dedicated to combatting resource scarcity through anonymous and convenient donations. Team members include:

  • Evan Ferreira 
  • Joseph Liao 
  • Emmet Gibbens 

The City said the team will receive $5,000 in seed funding to further their project, unlocked in phases as they make progress on their venture. They will also be admitted into QYourVenture, a virtual part-time program from April to November that guides participants’ entrepreneurial journey through training and phase-based milestones. 

Public Sector Innovation Stream 

Seegull

Seegull is an AI-driven website that transforms phones and webcams into eyes for the visually impaired, offering real-time voice-guided navigation and object recognition for enhanced independence, according to the release. Team members include:

  • Antony Li 
  • Yuchen Lin 
  • Ghaith Khalil 
  • Owen Gimbel (unable to attend the pitch but is part of the team) 

The team will receive a four-month paid internship with a municipal department within the City of Kingston, including resources and mentorship from City staff. The City said the team will also be exposed to a variety of projects underway at the City and will have the opportunity to build skills and gain invaluable government experience applicable in any career.

The Pitch Competition was livestreamed and can be viewed on Kingston City Council’s YouTube channel. The Mayor’s Innovation Challenge was made possible through partnership and collaboration with Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre and Bell Canada. 

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