For SAIT students, the final semester of school is a chance to put everything they've learned into practice. For many, it culminates in a practicum placement, or by working closely with industry partners in a final capstone project.
The capstone project was something Bachelor of Business Administration student Graham Phillips knew he wanted to do. “Capstone seemed like it would be an interesting challenge,” Phillips says. “We were given a problem by industry and told to rely on our education and best judgment to find a solution.”
Early in the semester, Phillips teamed up with fellow business student Camilo Quintero and Bachelor of Science Construction Project Management student Trent McCarthy to form one of four integrated capstone groups to work with Brookfield Residential. It was a welcomed collaboration between programs. “In the real world, we won’t always be working with people in our discipline or from the same educational background. The collaboration between different majors was very beneficial,” says McCarthy.
Brookfield identified the need for a solution to the “net-zero energy ready” building code that will be implemented nationwide within the next 10 years. Significant updates are being made to these codes. New builds will eventually be required to produce as much energy as they consume using renewable energy sources. These updates come as part of the Government of Canada’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
“Our team worked with Brookfield to come up with packages containing energy efficient components,” says McCarthy. “The idea would be to sell these packages much like they do with cosmetic upgrades such as granite countertops or hardwood floors.” In addition to developing the concepts for packages, the students were also responsible for researching the design, construction, marketing, cost and operations.
Change of plans
The team met twice a week to connect with one another, provide project updates and brainstorm ideas. With the disruption of COVID-19 bringing everything to a halt in mid-March, the group had to recalibrate. Weekly team meetings and scheduled coffee meetings with industry experts were transitioned to online video calls.
“Microsoft Teams became the most useful tool to communicate and interact with peers, instructors and teammates,” says Quintero.
Though the technological transition was seamless, the emotional impact of the pandemic was hard for the team.
“I found it difficult to continue with work I had begun,” says Phillips. “It became my personal journey to overcome my concerns and finish my last semester strong.”
The determination and strong foundation developed in the early days of the project, along with the support of instructors, helped the team maintain momentum.
“We had a lot of support from our instructors in both programs,” says McCarthy. “They helped us refine our scope and look into different areas that were relevant to our project.”
An experience like no other
With the original plan being to present their project at a final tradeshow-style showcase event in early April, the team was still able to pull off their vision virtually. Using Microsoft Teams, they presented their final project to six senior executives from Brookfield Residential. “I feel like our presentation with Brookfield went well overall,” says Quintero. “Since our very first meeting with them, we managed to tackle what they needed from us to be net-zero ready. The feedback we received was positive.”
“Unfamiliar experiences are often the best ones,” says Phillips. “Capstone provided me a dedicated space to research innovative ideas, speak with a variety of industry professionals and take ownership of a project that went beyond the day-to-day operations of a business.”
“We now have experience working from a virtual world, not just in meetings but also in presentations and document sharing,” McCarthy adds. “These are skills I’ll be able to use moving forward in my career.”
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