Social maker

From maker projects to $2 million social impact initiatives, this student has created his own path to innovation

Photo courtesy of Ali Hamdy

When Ali Hamdi was a young child, he looked at the outside world and saw it as a place held together by rigid structures, with strong bonds that could not be broken. In this world, things happened, businesses worked, and the world worked because those structures had a path for their inner workings to follow.

As he got older and started to get interested in robotics, software and creative thinking, that view changed.

As he learned how things work, he realized the world was more like an elementary school art project, where even the best work can be held together with glue, tape, and even a little butterfly pasta. and chewing gum.

Hamdy learned that there are many people working very hard to create the world, things and businesses around us.

And that lit a fire in him.

“The people who hold things together work really hard day and night, and those people are just regular people like me,” Hamdy says. “So I wanted to take matters into my own hands, make a change in myself and go from ‘It would be really cool if someone did that’ to ‘Hey, let’s do this ourselves.’

Today, the 24-year-old is an engineering student at McMaster University who is IBM Certified in Enterprise Design Thinking, and he has a portfolio of projects he notably worked on a robotic hand and a sorting device that organizes M&Ms by color. He is also resourceful; When $40 sensors for robotic arms became too expensive to buy on a large scale, Hamdy sourced parts to make them himself for twenty cents each.

Hamdy didn’t stop there. He got into entrepreneurship, tutored other students, started DIY workshops (where he turned an $8,000 college budget into $80,000 in income to run classes for larger groups) and eventually landed an internship as a SWAT developer with IBM Canada Advanced Studies crew.

It was working with the Advanced Studies team that opened Hamdy’s eyes, as it provided a unique environment where everyone’s voice is heard and some of the world’s greatest challenges are addressed.

Photo courtesy of Ali Hamdy

What happens when students have the opportunity to learn by doing

If you’re an undergraduate student leading a group of students, it can seem daunting to step into the professional setting of a large corporation like IBM Canada to share your ideas and talk about your future.

Hamdy was meeting with the Advanced Studies team to explain how to give students at his university access to IBM enterprise software. Although he says it was indeed a bit scary at first, that feeling changed as soon as he walked through the door.

“It was the first time I dealt with the industry on an individual basis and offered a partnership,” he recalls. Hamdy was welcomed with open arms at IBM, and his university also came to the table to discuss ways the groups could work together.

The exchange was everything he hoped for, and his meeting with the head of advanced studies, Marcellus Mindel, was part of a fundamental conclusion for Hamdy: relationships are everything in the professional world.

“It’s critical to treat people fairly and make sure everyone wins as you move forward,” he says, looking back on his early encounters with IBM. “It’s about making sure everyone benefits from the things you create.”

Photo courtesy of Ali Hamdy

Hamdy ended up signing a 16-month internship at Advanced Studies where he acted as a liaison between IBM Canada and other students who were working on web development, and he began teaching other undergraduates. how to use IBM technology.

It was there that he became certified in Enterprise Design Thinking, an approach to business problem solving that frames problems in a human-centered way, where solutions are prioritized for the end user.

Hamdy recalls his first project with Advanced Studies and a IBM Garage (essentially a business accelerator) called Precision Cities, which focused on finding a solution to shelters not having enough food to feed everyone.

With end users in mind, Hamdy and his team interviewed people from all walks of life, starting with shelter staff. As they discussed how the food delivery system worked, the group learned that it wasn’t the lack of food that was the problem.

Instead, they discovered it was a communication issue between stakeholders and end users, and they learned that organizations were sending too much food to areas that didn’t need it. everything, and not enough food to the areas that needed it.

The proposed solution was a communication platform allowing all shelters to talk to each other and organize the destination of resources.

The importance of communication and giving everyone a voice in a problem-solving situation ended up being another core lesson Hamdy took from the project, and it’s something he does to this day.

Moving from creator projects to large-scale social impact initiatives

Earlier this year, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, to work with a professor and software engineer Dr Daniela Damian on INSPIRE projectsa $2 million IBM-backed project that aims to give underrepresented tech students (or those lacking technical skills) the chance to innovate and gain experience.

“Dr. Damien told me about this idea of ​​bringing together all disadvantaged people and giving them a chance, giving them a voice, teaching them to innovate and showing them that they do belong to the fields of engineering and science, or STEM in general. And that sounds great to me. »

Today, Hamdy continues to pursue her undergraduate studies while taking breaks to complete projects and work assignments. He will share the results of its INSPIRE Apprentice Garage programand what it’s like to be a student working in a hands-on environment at the WeaveSphere conference this November in Toronto.

Photo courtesy of Ali Hamdy

WeaveSphere offers students a journey to innovation

WeaveSphere is a familiar place for Hamdy. While interning with IBM Canada’s Advanced Studies team, he helped organize parts of the event, which was previously called CASCON.

Taking place in Toronto from November 15-17, 2022, WeaveSphere is an innovation event that attracts industry leaders, academics, developers, and students who come together to “weave” diverse perspectives with real-world problem-solving opportunities.

The objective is to accelerate innovation by creating relationships between actors who do not always have the chance to collaborate in the business world.

Hamdy says WeaveSphere presents a unique opportunity for students who are able to interact with senior business leaders and world-class researchers.

“It was cool to have a voice among people who are way more experienced than me and way more educated than me. And it was cool for them to sit down and listen to me and respond.

So what can students get out of WeaveSphere?

Without hesitation, Hamdy says the event offers incredible inspiration. Second is the contacts, as the people who attend are all interested in making connections. Finally, Hamdy says the event provides an opportunity for students to regain confidence.

“I was always afraid of being rejected, or not having enough experience, or not having the knowledge base. But the funniest part is that you jump right in and start learning as you go. WeaveSphere is a place where you can find so many opportunities to truly change the world.

Digital Journal is an official media partner of WeaveSphere. We’ll be sharing updates ahead of the event and we’ll be live onsite November 15-17, 2022. Join us and purchase your tickets at