“My daughter learned at lot. Nothing of this caliber at school.”

Students were trickling into the main room and starting to find their spots. Some arrived before I did and were rehearsing; now that’s commitment.

March 3rd, 2018 was the day and the room was ready to hear all that the TU20 cup competitors had to offer. The TU20 2018 focused on how to make towns and cities smarter focusing on the entrepreneurial and technology sides of the competition. Around 50 students stuck through with the competition until today, an 8-week journey that started off with a simple sign up. Among the students, we had judges, parents and mentors, all key to making the event a success.

Checkout our mentor thank you video mashup!

We began the day with the TU20 Cup 2018 teaser, made by Olivia Herbert. After introducing the event, we welcomed Mike Branch to deliver a keynote on Smart Cities. Mike, Vice President of Geotab, presented some fantastic graphics, anecdotes and case studies that peaked the interest of the group.

How do you stop a self driving car? Draw a magic circle around it!

Before joining Geotab through an acquisition, Mike was the CEO of Innovex and one of the first members of Silicon Halton. This consistent community engagement was really a great way to tie into one of the event’s themes of bringing the community together. Following up on Mike’s presentation was difficult, but my super exciting topics of logistics and organizational announcements made the job much easier.

One of the key messages I wanted to articulate was the impact of the results. It is our hope that the winners’ of the TU20 Cup have a life changing experience at TechIgniters this summer, but every other team has had their lives improved at least marginally by the event. The importance of success and failure often get over-exaggerated, especially recently in the startup world where the hype around failure sometimes makes it seem more important then success. Instead, a healthy balance needs to be achieved where we aim for success with our full effort, attention and might, but recalibrate with what people often call failures. Thankfully, the pizza arrived and we didn’t have to recalibrate, but we did try to improve from last year. This year we added salad, fruits, and cookies to our lunch to boost the variety and healthiness (and also cookies are good).

“The mentorship was very useful and helpful. Loved the structure, cannot stress that [enough].”

We split our main auditorium into three rooms, two for pitching and one for relaxing, checking out demos, and eating pizza. With that, the TU20 cup was in full swing! For the next 3 hours, teams presented their projects in their respective rooms, hoping to be one of two teams selected from each room. Each presentation included a 2 minute introductory video, a 5 minute pitch and a 5 min Q&A. These 12 minutes allowed the teams to showcase the wide variety of skills they needed to develop such presentations, customer interaction and technical skills.

To help the students develop some of these skills, we had four workshops in the past 3 months, in December, January, and Two in February. The goal of the workshops was to help give the students a starting point for how tackle the various challenges, provide time to work on their projects and offer unique opportunities to learn things that are not taught in school. We averaged around 20 participants per workshop and made the presentations available so teams could review the material afterwards and strengthen their presentations.

There were a number of really cool ideas at the competition. Event hosting apps, pothole detection, parking finders, busing optimizers and more. Unfortunately, we could only pick 4 teams to be in the finals, so as one judge put it, “It feels like we have to pick losers not winner, these were very high quality projects”

“I got to work on my biggest project so far in my entire life.”

While the competition was going on, we also had two booths at our event, one for Geotab and one for UnivJobs. Geotab is one of the top telematics companies in the world and UnivJobs is a platform to help students get hired.



It came time to announce our four finalists: HaltonInfo, RoadAlerts, Reach and Eventhost. We set up a live stream of the final pitches, you can find them here.

And the pitches began!


All the pitches were well put together, but we had to pick a winner.

While judges were deliberating, we had Cam Smith, our Microsoft host, present about some of Microsoft’s work on smart cities. IOT is a key component of Microsoft’s cloud strategy so Smart cities fit in naturally.

Before we announced the winners, we announced the winners from the “Take the Cake” competition. By posting a picture and quote, teams had an opportunity to “Take the Cake”.


Best photo

TU20 Cups

Now back to the finalists!


Halton Info focused on the issue of making recreation events easier to access and book within Cities’ own portals. Their solution was simple yet effective and it would be great to see such thinking incorporated into our communities’ recreational websites.


Reach focused on helping small businesses attract new customers by providing a gamification and recommendation solution. By visiting different locations and leveling up, users got to unlock new offers.


RoadAlerts was a web service designed to alert Cities’ of new potholes, which is an expensive issue each community has to deal with. Using Geotab’s dataset, the team visualized the location of potholes and created an email alert system.


Last But Not Least, EventHost focused on creating and finding spontaneous events in your area. The main idea was to lower barrier to organize and attend events yet formalize the process.


So where were we, oh yes the winners of the TU20 cup.

In 4th place we had Team Halton info, winning 5 tickets to wonderland to celebrate their outstanding performance.

In 3rd place, we had Team Road alerts, who won 5 drones.

In 2nd place, team reach took home $500 and an IOT kit.

And the winners of the TechIgniters grand prize was team Eventhost. They will spend 12 weeks commercializing their product in the TechIgniters Excelerater with the help of many local entrepreneurs.


 “The aspect of responsibility, that there were many life skills in the cup itself and the months leading up to it. I really enjoyed the real life research and experiments with new topics, such as business and other aspects of technology. It really got me interested in other fields other than the ones I was interested in, and I think was a great experience to have.”

But, there was another prize. Thanks to MTechHub, a local tech incubator, all Halton Public Schools received Raspberry pi IOT kits for their participation and to encourage future innovation and exploration.


 “The aspect of responsibility, that there were many life skills in the cup itself and the months leading up to it. I really enjoyed the real life research and experiments with new topics, such as business and other aspects of technology. It really got me interested in other fields other than the ones I was interested in, and I think was a great experience to have.”


Before we let everyone go, we asked our participants to fill out two surveys to get some feedback on the event. We were pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback we received including 79% giving the event an 8/10 or higher.


Thank you to all our sponsors again, Geotab, Microsoft, Cloud Orbit and Silicon Halton (which TU20 is part of). Shout-out to the Town of Burlington for providing us with support, problem statements.


The event ended at 5:04, so I promised everyone there 4 minutes of my time (just kidding if you want to chat please feel free out) since we ran a little late. What we hope that is that even though the event ended, the projects don’t! We had companies, towns and people reach out to all 4 of the finalist teams looking to get more information, which is fantastic. But even for the non finalists, please use the the TU20 Cup as a launching point, either for your idea or your skills in general. Keep in touch with your Mentor, the judges and your peers! We hope that in 10 years you can look back and see this as a memorable and positive event.

The 2018 TU20 Cup was a blast, let’s make the 2019 one even better.



Denys Linkov

TU20 Lead | 3rd Year U of T CS

Hope you enjoyed this post! New posts coming soon.

– Denys