Top SHAD high school students take up Astronaut's challenge to help Canadians become more resilient in natural disasters

Original ideas include a squadron of rapid evacuation drones

WATERLOO, Ont. – 1,000 of the top high school students in the country came up with some original ideas to answer a challenge from NASA and Canadian astronaut Drew Feustel.  In early July, Feustel announced SHAD's theme for its 2018 summer program via video message from the International Space Station.


"Canadians need to be ready for extreme events," Feustel said.  "This year's challenge at SHAD is to come up with some kind of solution to help Canadian communities be more resilient in a natural disaster."

Throughout the month of July, the students who participated in Canada's award-winning enrichment and entrepreneurship program heard firsthand accounts from experts involved in extreme events such as floods in New Brunswick and Calgary, hurricanes in Nova Scotia, wildfires in British Columbia among others.

Among the innovations at SHAD's 16 host university campuses, a team of SHAD students at University of Waterloo created a plan for a squadron of rapid evacuation drones to be used in disaster-prone, densely populated areas.  Canadian teens, already technologically savvy would be recruited to host and maintain the RED squadrons, providing a network of interconnected drones which could be used at a moment's notice.

The RED squadrons would help authorities who often struggle in emergency evacuations to provide clear, accurate information in rapidly changing conditions. The mesh network would be controlled by a human operator at a command centre.  During a natural disaster, each squadron would guide evacuees to safety using LED lights and speakers with the drones offering instant information to plan escape routes.

Other innovative ideas include a group from SHAD at University of Saskatchewan devising a roof mounted, solar powered signaling beacon device to help first responders in municipalities in known flood regions.  Another group created a Wildfire Evacuation Kit, a heat resistant, reflective evacuation suitcase that guards precious items and includes masks, burn creams and heat protectant blankets.  Another group of SHAD students at Carleton University created a Play Dome.  The dome like structure for daycares consists of a slide and rock climbing wall on its exterior. It concurrently could function as an emergency shelter as its interior includes cushioned seats, water and food rations as well as medical supplies.

"It's inspiring to see SHAD youth take up this year's challenge and come up with new ways to help Canadian communities prepare for extreme events," says SHAD President and CEO Tim Jackson. 

SHAD teamed up with a number of experts who served as mentors and judges, including lead theme sponsor, the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

"With extreme weather events on the rise in Canada, we wanted to work closely with the SHAD students to help Canadians find new innovative ways to be more resilient when faced with a natural disaster," said President and CEO of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Don Forgeron.
The theme is one of the unique hands-on experiential learning components of SHAD.  Each year, the youth are presented with a complex and topical global issue. They then set out to design and engineer a solution by devising an original product or service.

SHAD, formed in 1980, concludes its 2018 program on July 27.  Students will showcase their innovations at the 16 different host campuses Open Day today.  For more information and to see if there is a campus in your area, please click on this link


SHAD produces leaders for Canada through its award-winning, life-changing, pan-Canadian enrichment platform for high school students. Every year, SHAD helps about 1,000 young Canadians tap into their full potential through an innovative month-long program at one of 16 partner university campuses. There, students apply STEAM (science-tech-engineering-arts-math) disciplines to real-life public policy and entrepreneurial challenges, forging insights and valuable relationships for life. Among its thriving global network of close to 17,000 SHAD Fellows and innovators are 32 Rhodes Scholars, 88 Loran Scholars, and 56 Schulich Leaders.  For more information, visit



Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada's private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.