“It’s a life-changing experience!” says Orianna Min (BASc 23). Her enthusiasm over the University of Waterloo’s Enterprise Co-op Program (E Co-op) is infectious.

Unique among university offerings in Ontario, E Co-op gives students the opportunity to spend a co-op term building their own businesses. A final year Mechanical Engineering student, Min is an E-Launch E Co-op pitch winner who has fully integrated her E Co-op experience into her studies. Her startup, Elpis, is now her Capstone Design project.

Min’s company got its start as an entry in the PRAXIS Ideation Challenge, a competition run by Waterloo in partnership with the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute.  Her experiences have helped her to develop Elpis’ core product — a device that uses biotechnology to assist people living with spinal cord injuries. She leads Elpis with Daniel Hu, a fellow Engineering student.

Orianna MinWhile in E Co-op, Min has been inspired to recognize her own potential. While previously, she may have ignored certain possibilities, these days, when observing a problem in the world she thinks, “Can I create something to change that circumstance or to improve that situation?”

Overall, the program has been an incredibly valuable experience, helping Min to gain a new perspective on life. Looking to the future, Min is interested in exploring possibilities beyond her specialty. She has been empowered, feeling like, “I can create something world-changing.”

Min’s E Co-op experience has also provided access to a host of resources. This includes expert faculty like Arash Arami, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering whose research interests include Rehabilitation Engineering and Wearable Systems — subjects that are directly associated with the work that Elpis aims to achieve.

Min cites the E Co-op program’s supportive community as a critical part of her experience. “The people I've met are all ambitious, but also inspired.” She speaks highly of her peers’ kindness and positive outlook, which has also influenced her perspective. Meanwhile, through E Co-op’s mentorship component, Min has gained valuable input from a diverse group of individuals, including Waterloo alumni.

As for the question of whether people ought to apply for E Co-op, Min is clear. “Do it!” She’s already recommended the program to friends among Engineering’s student body.

Ultimately, working on her startup via E Co-op has given Min a rewarding experience. “I can create something that will make the world a better place. I feel like that has always been what I want to do.” This program has the power to put students dreams within their reach.