Two dozen co-op students impressed a diverse audience when they presented their progress in working with community partners on solutions to real-life challenges, during the first networking event held by the INSPIRE program.

INSPIRE – which provides co-op opportunities to STEM students from historically underrepresented groups – launched earlier this year under the leadership of Daniela Damian, the Dean’s Special Advisor on Inclusive STEM in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.

The program’s first cohort of 24 first- and -second year UVic students are working in small teams on projects identified within the Victoria community, with guidance from both local industry mentors, graduate students, and global industry professionals.

Six student groups – called Apprentice Garage teams – described their progress and experiences to an audience of about 130 people, comprised of UVic STEM students, local high school teachers and students, industry professionals, and academic leaders.

“There was a lot of energy in the room, where high-school students, alongside local industry and non-profit organizations interacted with and listened to the INSPIRE students’ journey in tackling difficult, open-ended problems in our communities,” said Damian, who is a professor in UVic Computer Science.