By Mark Weber
Red Deer-based Ten Peaks Innovation Alliance hosted its second annual Innovation Xchange student conference in Lacombe earlier this week.
“My vision is that we inspire, engage and educate our youth,” said Dagmar Knutson, Ten Peaks’ executive director.
The Alliance’s mission is, “To engage, inspire and educate Alberta’s youth to embrace innovation and learn about technology, artificial intelligence, inclusivity and entrepreneurship as it relates to energy, environment and climate – and help them see themselves in Alberta’s future.”
Knutson is thrilled with how the conference – which was held at the LMC on Oct. 16 – unfolded.
“It started out with some emails to some teachers, and now it’s morphed into this beautiful conference. We have so many speakers from industry, academia, the not-for-profit area, environmental education, alternative energy, and traditional new oil and gas companies who have got net zero goals. Our kids don’t always know about all of these fantastic things that are out there.
“We really wanted to have a conference where the kids can engage with and talk to the speakers. That way, they have an opportunity to hear directly from them and more importantly, the speakers have this great one-on-one opportunity to hear from our students because they are our future. That is my vision,” she said.
This year marks the second conference hosted by Ten Peaks, which was incorporated about a year and a half ago.
As to this year’s event, the day kicked off with a breakfast meet-up to spark conversations between students, teachers, and industry experts.
Lukas Deeg from Capital Power was the keynote speaker at the breakfast. He talked about the roadmap towards net carbon neutrality by 2050, the challenges with decarbonizing the electricity system, the role of innovation, and opportunities for today’s youth in the electricity sector.
The diversity of the speakers is another strength of the conference, added Knutson.
“Kids can choose to go into the different break-out rooms and hear from the different speakers on things that they are curious about,” she explained. “They can also hear from all of these different perspectives.”
The event also celebrated local EcoVision students from the high school and their award-winning teacher Steven Schultz.
“The conference was an absolutely amazing opportunity for students, our community, our school, and for students in our EcoVision Club,” said Schultz, adding that the spectrum of speakers and presenters makes it very impactful for the students.
“It’s really about the students – for them to be honoured at a conference like this.”
Local students say they were excited to attend the ground-breaking event.
Baylee Fauque, a Grade 10 student at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School, said her school’s EcoVision Club, “Is a really great thing because we are contributing to helping the environment. It’s also great for the students at our school – something for them to be a part of and to contribute to,” she said. She wants other youth to know they can indeed make a difference and inspire change.
“Don’t believe you can’t do something – you can! Always believe in yourself.”
Sara Thornhill, another EcoVision member, agreed.
“I really enjoyed the conference because it gave us a chance to get to know the community a bit more, and to get involved with Ten Peaks and others who are interested in the environment.”
Both Baylee and Sara are also involved in Alberta Youth Leaders for Environmental Education.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, their school ranked among the Top 10 for the World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action. It’s the only school in North America to make the list as well.
“(EcoVision projects) are student-led, but it also takes great leadership by Mr. Schultz who has the passion to keep it all going – to help create the new projects and to help build them from an idea into an actual thing,” said Knutson.
Ultimately, it’s just terrific to see youth so passionate about the environment, she added.
“When they graduate and become adults, they will remember these things. They will make choices for their own lives, and within their own jobs and careers that will include the environment. That is fantastic.”
“We hope that by allowing students not only to learn but also to engage in the conversation at a time when they are thinking about their own career choices – it can help shape their future, and therefore the future of Alberta’s leaders in the environment and energy sectors,” said Knutson.