R&I student ambassadors represent NC in Ottawa


Last month, two members of Niagara College’s Research & Innovation team had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet research leaders and political stakeholders at the annual Colleges & Institutes Canada’s CICan on the Hill + Student Showcase event in Ottawa.

During the Student Showcase, Brian Klassen, research associate with the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) and Kyler Schwind, research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre (CFWI Innovation Centre), had the chance to present their respective research projects to many industry and government stakeholders. Among them: Navdeep Bains, minister, Innovation, Science and Industry; Vance Badawey, MP, Niagara Centre; and Denise Amyot, president and CEO, CICan.

Schwind, a student of NC’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program, worked on the team to help develop Canada’s first non-alcoholic gin under the brand label Sobrii Ø-Gin. The challenge, from industry partner DistillX Beverages Inc., was to create a non-alcoholic distilled spirit that has zero calories, zero sugar and, as the marketing touts: zero hangovers.

“I was surrounded by outstanding students from all over Canada, so it was a great experience to learn what kinds of projects students are completing to solve everyday problems,” said Schwind, adding it was an impactful way to illustrate capabilities and knowledge to research leaders.

“Being able to showcase a commercialized product to some very prominent people in government and the research industry was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was great to feature the skills and abilities of the CFWI Innovation Centre, while also connecting with officials on a personal level.

“Every student that attended was very knowledgeable and passionate about their projects, and I believe sharing that knowledge and passion is the best way for colleges and institutions to show the success of applied research.”

For Klassen, a 2018 graduate of NC’s Electronics Engineering Technology program, he also valued the opportunity to get to speak with key government officials and research stakeholders.

His research team worked on a project for international confectioners Ferrero, the makers of the popular Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella. Ferrero wanted assistance with collecting growth tracking data of Ontario hazelnut trees in anticipation of planting thousands of acres of trees across the province in the next decade.

A custom growth monitoring system was developed for hazelnut trees by the AETIC researchers, which can be also be used by growers across Ontario. The system will monitor current hazelnut farms to see how weather affects the growth of trees and crop yield. The data from sensors and images from a time-lapse camera is sent to Niagara College servers and stored in a database, which can be used to analyze the data over the history of the project, and will help determine best hazelnut management practices.

The project was funded by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), through its College Strategic Sector/Cluster Technology Platform (CSSCTP).

“We were told that Mr. Bains only had time to see the displays on one side of the room and mine was on the side that he couldn’t come see. While he was meeting with all the students to check out their research projects, he seemed to be very interested and ended up coming to my side of the room as well,” said Klassen. “It was great to have had the opportunity to meet with him.”