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Throughout high school and my first year of university, I was completely invested in going into the healthcare field and becoming a surgeon. I had a full plan: I was going to complete my bachelor’s degree in biology, go to med school, do my residency and follow the path that a surgeon must follow. The classes in first-year biology were not how I expected them to be, though.

From environmental engineering student to cosmetic start-up founder – people often ask me if there's a connection. The answer is a straightforward “no”. The environmental engineering program curriculum at the University of Waterloo doesn't relate to cosmetics or building businesses. Unlike other engineering disciplines that are linked to computing, environmental engineering is typically more conservative when it comes to entrepreneurship.

My name is Edmond H. and I am in my second year of the Math/CPA program and am currently on my first co-op work term through the Bridging Entrepreneurs to Students (BETS) program.

“What is the BETS program?”, you might ask. Well, the BETS program is a specialized co-op program offered through the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business that allows engineering, mathematics, and School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) students to gain experience working for startup companies. The program pairs teams of two entrepreneurial co-op students with companies for a 12-week project placement.

Jackson Mills saw a problem with student feedback. Originally, he thought that students were falling behind in some of his classes because of a translation error due to the use of jargon. He and another classmate thought that if they translated lectures into more visual metaphors it would eliminate the use of jargon.

Better Bail For America (BB4A), a team of four fourth-year Mechanical and Mechatronics engineering students, competed in and won the Hult Prize Regional Finals in Mexico in March 2019.

This team is focusing on improving the criminal justice system in the United States. They aim to help prevent youth unemployment in the USA by enabling young, employed, first-time offenders to access crowdfunded, interest-free bail.

When SWIRVE transitioned from a Capstone design project into a full-time startup as Vena Medical, there was an endless amount of work to do. Between product development, contractor and vendor management, business planning and grant applications, the founding team—two mechanical engineering graduates—knew they needed co-op students to get the job done. When their Conrad mentors Wayne Chang and Emily Peat approached them about the BETS program, they decided to take a chance on it.

Vena Medical could not be happier with how well the BETS program worked out.

Chris Thiele wrote his last exam of the spring term in the middle of August, and by the first week of September, he began his second Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) term on a plane to Hong Kong.

Balancing the roles of student and startup founder has become routine for the 4A electrical and computer engineering student. He has been working on the smart gardening system Grobo since spring 2014, when he met his co-founder Bjorn Dawson in Conrad’s BET 300: Foundations of Venture Creation class.

With four months to focus solely on building Grobo, Chris charted an ambitious course that took him from Hong Kong, to the manufacturing ​centres of China, to California, and back to Waterloo in time for the E Co-op end-of-term presentations—with many lessons learned along the way.

Since high school, I knew I had a knack for social causes and wanted to make a career out of advocating for environmental and social justice. While I thought I was going to end up working in environmental advocacy, this summer I picked up the skills to attain this goal as a businesswoman and entrepreneur.

During my spring 2015 Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) term with the Conrad Centre, I launched my venture, whyVOTE – a social media platform where young Canadians can learn about current policy issues and compare their views with friends. While the aim of whyVOTE is to motivate young people to vote, it also collects data on the youth opinion which can impact high-level decisions.