Co-op students become role models for K-8 students at LAUNCH Waterloo 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Waterloo co-op student working as a program co-ordinator and coach at LAUNCH Waterloo

By: Maddie Savage (she/her)

University of Waterloo co-op students who want to make a positive impact on young people may find the opportunity to do so at LAUNCH Waterloo.

LAUNCH transforms STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) into a minor sport. Young people, from kindergarten to grade eight, participate in STEAM leagues where they work together to complete challenges through fun, hands-on activities.

The Canadian Minor STEAM Association (CMSA), founded by LAUNCH, aims to build a national community of coaches and parents to support these STEAM leagues across Canada.

LAUNCH utilizes creativity to find new solutions and new programs that integrate and engage children while learning about coding, computational thinking and scientific methodology.

LAUNCH Waterloo logo on window

The organization hires co-op students from all programs that can connect with children and help them to solve problems in creative ways.
“Waterloo pushes students to think outside the box and try to find other solutions to problems. That’s what makes them [Waterloo students] great as our coaches and co-op students,” says Amanda Helka
(BSc ’19), a Waterloo Doctor of Pharmacy student and program manager at LAUNCH.
Most of the coaches at LAUNCH are either current or former Waterloo students. Although technical skills are an asset for the students they hire, good interpersonal skills are equally important. It is often necessary for coaches to be able to break down difficult concepts for a child in the program.
“We're looking for those interpersonal skills, people who can connect with the kids and who can make a difference in that kid's life. Waterloo students just have that compassion, empathy and strength to really make those connections,” says Tobi Day-Hamilton, co-founder and executive director of LAUNCH (BA ’99) (she/her).
“The biggest thing that they get to be is role models for these kids,” says Day-Hamilton. “That's a really interesting piece for the co-op students, to be able to connect with the kids and be that role model.”
LAUNCH is a collaborative work environment and aims to create a collaborative STEAM network of children, co-op students, volunteers and parents.

Want to hear more about working as a STEAM coach?

Waterloo co-op students and alumni, Ameen Yaseen (he/him), Akshay Jogoo (he/him) and Helka (she/her), tell us about their experiences at LAUNCH.

Ameen Yaseen

Ameen Yaseen

Waterloo Mathematical Physics student, Ameen Yaseen, gets the opportunity to encourage the next generation to be curious and ask questions at an early age.

Yaseen worked in program outreach and development for his co-op work term at LAUNCH in fall 2022. In this role, Yaseen worked directly with the children by teaching and running weekly programs. He developed content for future programs that will run both in Waterloo and nationwide.

“I'm working on a full six weeks of content that's aimed towards those in kindergarten to grade three. I chose to theme this content around the water cycle,” explains Yaseen in an interview during his co-op term.

LAUNCH stood out to Yaseen for its collaborative and creative environment. “The team here is super flexible and invested in what they're doing,” says Yaseen. “That passion tends to come out in the work that we do.”

According to Yaseen, working with the children and the team at the organization inspired him to start his own group project outside of the classroom.

“We're working on building an electron gun accelerator and just kind of seeing how we can play around with it and encourage our own curiosity. It's that same idea, really, of being brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone and ask questions,” says Yaseen.


These kids have reignited my curiosity, it’s a contagious curiosity. Being around them has been enough to have me start asking questions about things I don’t understand.

Meanwhile, he enjoys the flexibility of working different hours than a typical nine-to-five job. As the programming runs after typical elementary school hours, he is often working in the evenings and developing project ideas at night.

“I’m a huge night owl, and I love working at all sorts of odds hours,” says Yaseen.

Akshay Jogoo

Akshay Jogoo

“Working with the team helped to center me and make me feel comfortable with exploring who I am and who I am in the workplace,” says Akshay Jogoo (BSc ’20), a Waterloo alum and program co-ordinator at LAUNCH.

Jogoo graduated from Waterloo with a bachelor's degree in Mathematical Physics. He started out at LAUNCH as a remote volunteer in 2020 while completing his master’s degree at Laurentian University.

In his current role, Jogoo works with co-op students to support their projects. “As the kids meet some of our co-op students and volunteers from Waterloo, they lean towards them. The kids see
co-op students as sort of a hero for them – like a STEAM champion,” says Jogoo.

Although the co-op students are teaching the children, co-op students also learn from young people participating in the program. “A lot of our co-op students might not know how to code, which is completely fine because we're all in the same boat,” says Jogoo. “Everyone's learning how to code together.”


A lot of LAUNCH is that community building. I think that's one of the biggest skills I've learned working here and for our co-op students too. When they come in, they don’t know any of the kids, but now all the kids love them. They're superstars.
They're role models.


Amanda Helka

“I found that it was really rewarding to connect with the kids.
I knew right away that I wanted to work with kids in the future,” says Helka, who started working at LAUNCH in a full-time virtual position as a coach in 2020.

According to Helka, both her co-op work terms and her degree helped her acquire the skills needed at LAUNCH.

“For one of my co-ops, I was working in science outreach and I got to go out into the community and share my love of science with kids across the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge area,” says Helka.

Helka's hands-on lab experience, which she developed during her undergraduate degree, helps her teach the children ways to learn by experimenting through trial and error.



Waterloo students have the added challenge to not only succeed academically, but often in a co-op program. Being able to balance all those expectations makes them very flexible, very ready to jump into whatever challenge they have.

As part of the leadership team, Helka gets to see the impact that coaches make on the participants. “It’s really quite heartwarming to see them build those connections,” she says.

“Since we get to know the kids so well, we also have a lot of vulnerable conversations with them. They feel comfortable opening up with the coaches if there's things going on at home, with their friends or at school,” says Helka.

“At LAUNCH the kids get that mentorship and have someone that they can lean on.”