Meet the Victoria students combining reconciliation and gaming

Plus, an update on local ridesharing options.

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Want to learn more about Indigenous culture? Soon, there’ll be an app for that.

Nancy Hu, Charlotte Bedford, Lois Harnett-Shaw, Naomi Ding. Photo: St Margaret's School

“You'll be writing about them pitching it at a future Western Angel Investment Summit,” Victoria Tech Journal contributor Robyn Quinn quips. A quartet of Saint Margaret's School students are seated behind Quinn on my Google Meet screen. The group are no strangers to pitches, and successful ones at that.

Starting in 2021, the school began to team up its students who had an interest in innovation. Nancy Hu, Charlotte Bedford, Lois Harnett-Shaw, and Naomi Ding have parlayed that experience into two wins. The team and its app, IndigenUS, took the first place $10,000 Westmont Prize in 2022. Following the victory, the team successfully pitched to Inspire: STEM for Social Impact, a program for research and community-based innovation at UVic that engages STEM students from underrepresented groups.

Targeted to their peers, the app houses a game that allows users to learn more about the Indigenous communities that surround them. The students had recently engaged in a unit on reconciliation, and with that top of mind, they pursued a project that focused on teaching their generation about Indigenous cultures. The best way to do that, they thought, was to meet their peers where they were at, on the iPhones and iPads they already use.

As the students behind the app are not Indigenous themselves, they felt it vital to connect with local members of that community. They interviewed VIU chancellor and local Indigenous leader Judith Sayers in the early stages of figuring out what their app would be.

This conversation helped them hone in on their idea. By partnering with the Victoria Native Friendship Center and the Indigenous Perspective Society, as well as local Knowledge Keepers, experts helped the team incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the app.

“We were using locks to open up the next Indigenous community, but we heard that might be a little traumatic for some people,” Harnett-Shaw said as an example. “So, it was suggested we use a feather or carved box that would open and show the next one.”

The next stage for IndigenUS is to build a prototype. As far as the team’s aspirations are concerned, the sky's the limit. Despite a few other vocations being thrown around, the quartet concurred that AI is an intriguing space. Then, of course, they now have experience in software development and gaming at an early age. No matter what field they go into, it seems the team is destined for greatness. I certainly was inspired by our chat.

Maybe Quinn was right. So, I’m looking forward to Western Angel Investment Summit 2033.

🏙️ Community catchup, powered by VIATEC

Fight Hunger in Victoria! The recent fire at the Mustard Seed Food Bank has left the organization in urgent need of support. In response, VIATEC has launched its Food Bank Challenge. They're calling on companies like yours to join them in making a difference in the lives of those in need.

Whether you donate online or get creative with fundraising events, every dollar counts. Plus, they're encouraging companies to challenge each other to see who can raise the most.

Join VIATEC in this time of need and show Victoria how tech companies can work together to create positive change. Register your team now, or email [email protected] to learn more.

📰 More Victoria innovation news

🚗 On the lookout: Uride, a Thunder Bay-founded ridesharing service, is looking for local drivers. Read more in Victoria Buzz.

🚘 On the horizon: Meanwhile, Uber received Passenger Transportation Board approval and teased that its service is coming to Victoria “soon.” Dive in. 

🌊 On the water: The National Centre of Expertise on Maritime Pilotage visited Victoria and was impressed by the potential of local oceantech venture, MarineLabs. Continue.

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