Thompson Rivers University

Engineering competition connects students and alumni

April 29, 2024

(Left to right) Engineering department Chair (interim) Mridula Sharma, Acres Enterprises Ltd. owner/president Jason Paige and computer science students Kenneth Kouadio, Paul Richter, Shubham Jangra and Connor Cross celebrate team five's victory along with Acres' business development manager Chad Kyllo and engineering faculty member Geoff Fink.

An innovative idea, effective work distribution and engaging presentation skills were the keys to victory for team five at the 2024 Acres Industry Innovation Competition for engineering students.

Computer science students Paul Richter, Connor Cross, Kenneth Kouadio and Shubham Jangra make up this year’s winning team of TRU undergrads competing in the annual event. The issue they addressed was time management and small-scale task management on job sites. Their integrated system was designed to inform off-site management of employee location and project status while allowing them to assign tasks remotely.

“Their presentation was the number one thing that set it apart,” says Acres Enterprises owner/president and TRU distinguished alum Jason Paige. “And they worked really well as a team. It was obvious that everyone pitched in.”

Jangra says the three-month long process of designing and implementing an innovative idea was challenging but informative. Along with a $4,000 scholarship to split among them, the students gained practical skills and received valuable mentorship from the Acres team and TRU faculty.

“We had to be very disciplined. It took us three weeks to decide on a topic because it wasn’t enough to have an idea. We needed to be able to build a prototype to show that our idea would work,” says Jangra, adding he plans to compete again next year.

“I can put it on my resume as one of my biggest achievements.”

The second annual event invited students to come up with creative solutions to industry problems. Two competitions run each year — one at the high school level and one geared toward undergrads. A team of five students from Valleyview Secondary School is sharing an entrance scholarship after their innovative idea, TempSafe, a device designed to protect workers in hot conditions, wowed the judges.

“There are four main themes that we’re judging on,” says faculty member and competition organizer Geoff Fink. “Each team is being judged on if it’s addressing a real-world business problem. And then on the engineering design and quality of the report. And finally, they’re judged on their presentation.”

Bridging education with industry

Integrating innovation with construction isn’t new to Acres. It’s one of the ways it sets itself apart. Acres recently received the Excellence in Innovation Award from the Northern Regional Construction Association, and the B.C. Construction Association awarded the company a Construction Leadership Award.

“I graduated from TRU with a computer-automated systems technician diploma, and I took that kind of thinking into construction. We’ve been transforming our business ever since,” says Paige, adding that partnering with TRU is a great way to create connections between students and industry. “Our role at the table is to inspire the students and show them how what they’re studying can be beneficial in the business world.”

Acres isn’t just funding the competition. It actively supports each team from the first pitch to the final presentation. The company’s support for TRU also includes funding for Women in Trades students, event sponsorships, scholarships, involvement in construction projects across campus and helping fund technology for nursing students.

“The collaboration with Acres has been great,” says Fink. “In addition to funding it, they also put a lot of time and effort into the competition. We are grateful for their support.”

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