March 3, 2021
Innovative and entrepreneurial NNDSB STEAM students recognized by Education Minister
Fionna Truong, Ella Kelso, and Emily Yates may only be in Grades 9 and 10 at West Ferris Secondary School (WFSS), but the female trio has become a force to be reckoned with, catching the eye of Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s Minister of Education.
Back in June 2020, NNDSB proudly shared that the WFSS’s science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) students were receiving one of 11 worldwide Vale COVID-19 challenge grants for their construction and distribution of a UV Cube sterilizer box. The trio along with fellow classmate Tessa Summers, all from FIRST Robotics Team 1305 built the UV Cube at the request of Fionna’s father, Dr. James Truong, to assist with the sterilization of Personal Protective Equipment at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Two prototypes are actually already in use at the hospital’s emergency department and intensive care unit.
On Feb. 8, the students participated in a video conference with the Minister of Education, local dignitaries, and school administrators to be recognized for transforming their innovating plans into a business opportunity.
“It was inspiring to join MPP Fedeli to witness the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of these young women who have worked hard to deliver a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Minister Lecce. “This government is creating the environment and taking further action to position Ontario as a global leader in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) education — especially by encouraging more women to pursue these good jobs and exciting careers.”
Since then, Fionna, Emily, and Ella partnered with CBON Group to create FEME Innovations Inc. and the ‘Qube itTR. In this venture, the three students are learning various aspects of starting a business from legalities, accounting, manufacturing, prototyping, distribution, and marketing.
Qube itTR, which inactivates germs on everyday use items with ultraviolet or UV light, is in the process of gaining approval from Health Canada, United States Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Dental Association. Additionally an ISO 13485 certification. Once additional testing, field research, and marketing are complete, the first line of FEME Innovations’ ‘Qube it’ will begin production.
“I’m always blown away to see the incredible and innovative ideas that our students develop and bring to fruition,” said Craig Myles, NNDSB’s Director of Education. “Fionna, Ella, and Emily have reached a remarkable achievement and have become shining stars for young women and for STEAM. This is just one example that speaks volumes to the excellent work that NNDSB students and staff do each year.”
All three students credit WFSS’s STEAM program in helping them get to the point of being able to design and execute a fully functioning product.
“It was really cool to have Minister Lecce reach out and speak with us. It helped us realize that we are going to make a difference,” said Emily.
Along with starting a business, the young women all say they have become more confident in giving presentations and interviews.
“I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity of talking with the media and especially the meeting with Minister Lecce. This has been a big step to show myself that I have gained confidence through this venture,” stated Fionna.
At such a young age, Grade 9 student Emily says this entrepreneurial journey is a new and exciting opportunity that most people her age wouldn’t get to experience. “We had the opportunity to be a part of so many pieces throughout this process. It really opened your eyes to all the different components.”
Echoing her counterpart, Fionna stated all three were previously involved in the robotics, science, and technology aspects.
WFSS staff member and parent of Ella, Heather Kelso says “being part of FIRST Team 1305, a West Ferris STEAM student and being friends have all contributed to the success of this venture. This experience will help them continue to grow as individuals and embrace girl-power at its best.”
“It is rewarding to see young women actively pursue STEAM programming options in school. When this is paired with mentors such as Heather Kelso and supported by our community partners like FIRST Robotics Canada it really brings forward opportunities that can be life changing for our students,” said WFSS Principal Andy Gagne.
NNDSB’s Board of Trustees has supported robotics learning across the district by providing funds to enhance opportunities.
“Our Board has been an important and consistent supporter of the robotics initiative through contributions from our Trustee Initiative Fund. It is certainly gratifying to see this investment play a role in this significant result as we are focused on opportunities for our students to attain their full potential,” said Jay Aspin, NNDSB Board Chair.
Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, said, “It is great to see the work that these young women have put into the creation of the UV Sterilization product they are now marketing. Their work with FIRST Robotics and Team 1305 wasn’t just about building robots – it built character and confidence.”
Speaking about the scope of their project, Fedeli said, “They took those skills and have created a COVID-related product that has the capacity to greatly assist frontline healthcare workers and could be put to use in many other areas. It is wonderful to see that they saw a challenge, collaborated, designed a solution, and learned how the production and marketing of it came together. Simply brilliant!”
All three young women hope to inspire others in pursuing their goals, strengths, and passions especially when it comes to women in STEAM.
Information about Near North District School Board:
Near North District School Board is an English-language public school board serving the North Bay – Parry Sound – Nipissing area. The Board consists of approximately 10,000 students in 27 elementary schools, seven secondary/senior schools and various alternative learning centres. For more information, please visit nearnorthschools.ca and follow Near North District School Board on social media.
For more information, please contact:
Near North District School Board
P. (705) 472-8170, extension 5083