Engineering Students to Pitch Ideas 'Dragons' Den' Style

January 06, 2011 - News Release

University of Guelph engineering students are about to be thrown into the Dragons' Den.

This Friday, teams of students will test their business ideas against a judges' panel in a campus version of the popular CBC TV show for aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch ideas to business moguls. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Room 1307 of the Thornbrough Building.

The student teams will have 15 minutes to pitch their idea for a business product or service before a judges’ panel for cash prizes.

The contest is the high point of a first-ever “boot camp” being held this week for senior engineering students. Almost 30 students are enrolled in the camp, which is organized by the School of Engineering and taught by alumni volunteers.

Called “Business and Entrepreneurship in Engineering,” the camp is a one-week non-credit course in which graduates are sharing experience and insights with current students. Topics have included international business, ethics, finance, teamwork, marketing, business planning and communications.

“It’s tying academics and the real world together,” said Prof. Hussein Abdullah, director of the School of Engineering.

Prof. Bill Van Heyst, the school’s associate director (undergraduate studies), said he knows of no similar venture offered at another Canadian engineering school.

He said the course, including its Dragons’ Den-style contest, reflects wider interest in boosting Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship, including recent funding available through the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario.

“Engineering is applied science,” said Van Heyst. “We generate ideas that are close to implementation.”

For one contest entry, master’s student Leanne Conrad and her teammates are writing a business plan for a non-profit organization. She expects the plan will help in her new role as Guelph chapter co-ordinator of the Tetra Society of North America, which helps volunteers develop assistive devices for people with disabilities.

With his team, master’s student Dan Roth is writing a business plan for a water-quality monitoring service. For his degree, he is developing a computer software tool to help farmers explore renewable energy. The boot camp has given him ideas about how to sell the idea, he said. “We’re going to have to market this. Those are skills I don’t necessarily have.”

The boot camp idea arose last year in discussions involving SOE, the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences, the College of Management and Economics and U of G graduates. As a result of these collaborative efforts, CME is working towards offering similar workshops to other units across campus. Having the internal expertise to facilitate this initiative will help customize the workshops to ensure the curriculum fits the needs of the various disciplines.

The session was advertised to senior engineering students last fall. Participants were selected based on their written applications.

About 25 engineering grads have taught the boot camp sessions this week.

Keith Driver, a two-time Guelph grad who heads Leading Carbon Ltd. in Calgary, said the camp enables him to share insights and skills with students and tap into prospective employees.

“It’s a chance to give back but also find possible recruits," said Driver, who helped organize the event with graduate Eric Monteith, who works at Stantec Consulting Ltd. in Calgary. "We hope that what they learn in the boot camp will help accelerate them in their careers.”

For more information, contact Maryam Latifpoor-Keparoutis at or 519-824-4120, Ext. 53655.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1