The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and partner Aqua Forum moved ahead with the British Columbia 2020 AquaHacking Challenge Semi-Final on March 21, 2020. Organizers transitioned science fair style event to an all-digital platform.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring this event to the public,” said Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB’s executive director. “It’s Canada Water Week and we are looking forward to sharing this innovative program with the community – celebrating water and profiling young professionals who are working on solutions to some of our greatest water challenges.”

According to Dominique Monchamp, Aqua Forum chief operating officer, “We are charting new waters with this virtual event and embrace the opportunity. The semi-final has always been one of our important in-person milestone events, but with the current COVID-19 outbreak and the importance of following the direction of health officials, we had to switch gears – and do so quickly. Facebook Live streaming and other video conferencing technologies allow us to still hold the event, and do so in a safe and responsible manner.  This is an opportunity to leverage technology in the current context and continue to focus on important environmental programs and outcomes.”

The event, which was live-streamed on the OBWB’s Okanagan WaterWise Facebook page, announced the top five teams:

🏆 Atlantis from Vancouver, BC

🏆 Ozero from Sherbrooke, Quebec

🏆 Elite from Kelowna, BC

🏆 Hydrodynamic Labs of Kelowna, BC

🏆 Agricultural Decision Support from Victoria, BC and Toronto, Ontario

The B.C. Challenge launched in October with the announcement of five critical freshwater issues for student-led teams to focus on. Chosen by local water leaders, the collective issues are:

  • contaminants in storm water,
  • outdoor water use,
  • flood damage and risks,
  • invasive zebra and quagga mussels, and
  • access to potable water in Indigenous communities.

In response,  22 teams from across B.C., as well as other provinces, signed up to pitch their tech-solutions to a panel of expert judges, including representatives from RBC, Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Mitacs, Accelerate Okanagan, Piscine Energetics, Ecoscape Environmental, and others. Each team made their pitch online, with judges then teleconferencing and discussing their scoring.

The winning teams are now competing for $50,000 in cash prizes and a spot in a business incubator, taking their solution from idea to market. The finals will be held in June.

The B.C. AquaHacking Challenge is one of three programs being held across Canada this year. Other challenges are taking place in Winnipeg and Atlantic Canada.

Aqua Forum was founded by the De Gaspe Beaubien Foundation with the goal to connect youth and young professionals with an interest in freshwater issues, clean-tech innovation and entrepreneurship, with mentors who could help them launch real-world solutions. The AquaHacking Challenge is the organization’s flagship program. After five years of programming in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin, the program is now available coast to coast thanks to funding from RBC Foundation.

Supporters and funders of the B.C. AquaHacking Challenge include: RBC Foundation, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Teck Resources, IBM, Mitacs, Ovivo and Lavery Lawyers.

Advisory committee partners include: Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council, Urban Systems, City of Kelowna, Purppl, Okanagan Nation Alliance, and the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology – Cleantech Planning and Innovation Branch.

Academic partners are: UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver, Okanagan College, Simon Fraser University, BC Institute of Technology, University of Victoria and University of Northern B.C., as well as several universities in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Implementation partners are: Hackworks, Waterlution and the OBWB’s Okanagan WaterWise education and outreach program.

For further information on the B.C. AquaHacking Challenge 2020, click here.

Featured image from Facebook: Okanagan WaterWise.

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