Wiky High student takes entrepreneurial stakes

The three-man team of Ryan Fleming from Korah Collegiate and Vocational School in the Soo, Cade Darrington from O’Gorman Secondary School in North Bay and Moses Pitawanakwat from Wikwemikong High School, left, were the final winners of Enterprise Olympics 2017 in the Mining, Forestry and Agriculture sector.

Moses Pitawanakwat has a scholarship winning idea

NORTH BAY—Moses Pitawanakwat, a Grade 11 Wikwemikong High School student together with his team comprised of other students from across the North took home top honours from the Enterprise Olympics in North Bay recently.

Over 100 students from Northern Ontario’s Secondary Schools took part in a two-day initiation to entrepreneurship in North Bay at Canadore College and Nipissing University where they had the opportunity to meet local entrepreneurs, make new connections and explore the many possibilities that exist in choosing a career in entrepreneurship.

Introduced by Head Start in Business, a program funded by FedNor, The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Enterprise Olympics brings students and community organizations together and creates an avenue for students to explore the world of business. At the event, teams are created based on their preferred business sector such as Arts and Culture, Health and Wellness, Retail, Mining, Forestry and Agriculture, Technology and Innovation and Social Enterprise. Within their chosen sector, students are challenged to come up with a business idea. They then pitch their idea to a panel of sector judges for a chance to win $500. The winning sectors compete in the finals for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship to a participating post-secondary university or college in Northern Ontario. Moses and his team won those scholarships.

In an interview with The Expositor, Moses explained that he had to pick from one of the sectors mentioned above. He chose mining, forestry and agriculture due to his interest in the trades. His fellow team members had also chosen the same industry and were joined together as a result, having never met before. “I had a buddy from North Bay and one from Sault Ste. Marie,” Moses said of his group.

“Once we got there we were all thinking on what we would like to do,” Moses added. The Wikwemikong High School student suggested an air filtration system for underground miners. Teammate Cade thought it was an excellent idea as he had just lost an uncle due to mining-related lung disease.

“That night, I did a bunch of research and found that mines use ventilation systems, but not air filtration systems so we came up with Critical Air, an air filtration system that uses recyclable filters,” Moses shared.

Moses said the team then had to come up with the figures needed to get the system up and running and pitch it to judges, all within six hours.

“We first went into a little room with two judges,” he explained, noting that the team passed the first round. “Then we had to pitch to an auditorium with 200 students and do a presentation on our product.”

“It was a really great experience,” he added. “And I’ve made all great new friends.”

Moses said he and his friends plan to stay in touch and put the business plan into action once they graduate from post-secondary school.

Before this experience, Moses was thinking about a career as a heavy equipment operator or a welder. “But this has changed my whole perspective.”

It was suggested by teacher Jason Thibault that Moses sign up, so he did.

“I did not know I had this potential before now,” the student said.

On May 17 and 18 in North Bay, not only did students get the chance to network with other like-minded individuals, they also had the opportunity to network with local entrepreneurs and enjoy an inspirational talk by Laurentian University graduate and author Connor Larocque. Students also took part in Head Start’s business-themed obstacle course ‘The Amazing Entrepreneurial Race.’ The goal of the race is to introduce participants to the characteristics of an entrepreneur through experiential activity.

Students were mentored by key experts from their chosen sector to help them solidify an idea. In total, the event brought together 13 mentors, 17 sector judges, six coaches, three final judges and 22 teachers.

The three-man team of Ryan Fleming from Korah Collegiate and Vocational School in the Soo, Cade Darrington from O’Gorman Secondary School in North Bay and Moses Pitawanakwit from Wikwemikong High School were the final winners of Enterprise Olympics 2017 in the Mining, Forestry and Agriculture sector. Their innovative idea named Critical Air is a special underground air filtration system that would pump clean air into the mines in order to prevent health ailments caused by this harsh working environment. The team demonstrated a clear need in this sector and their charismatic and convincing pitch earned them the win.

Mr. Thibault noted that this is not the first time Wikwemikong High School has produced a winning team. “We have had three winners in the past five years of the event; Brianna Claussen in 2014 and Peyton Manitowabi in 2015 also won gold medals.”

“Moses was able to meet and share ideas with students from across Northern Ontario. It was a proud moment for him and it gave him confidence and hope for the future,” he added.