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Campusgrids aims to increase student engagement

photo by Brianna Campigotto

With an endless number of university clubs and organizations, and an overloaded engineering schedule, Elias Fares wanted a tool to know just what was going on.

“I felt like I was missing out on events,” says Fares. “I always had tons of schoolwork and I didn’t know what was going on, or where to go when I had free time.” 

So, the University of Ottawa master’s student in human–computer interaction created Campusgrids, an app that helps students find out about activities, clubs, and student gatherings on campus.

“Campusgrids is the home of all campus activities,” he says. “Our mobile app engages students in class discussions and helps students connect with each other.”

The app, which began as a website, allows university or college clubs and organizations to post their events on a harmonized calendar and allows users to view information about all campus clubs, chat and share pictures.

It can even help them create study groups to build on their in-class experience by suggesting connections with other users in the same program of study, or with similar interests.

Most schools post club and event information on their websites, but you have to go to each organizer’s individual website, Fares explains. “It was very tedious to find out what was happening.”

As the demand grew, Fares began collaborating with three other students and childhood friends: fellow U of O students Ryan Elias, marketing, Robbie Elias, computer science, and Tedy Tadi, an accounting graduate from the University of Quebec.

The website was taken down last summer and a beta version of the app was developed. The four released the final version of the free app on Aug. 26.

“A major roadblock we had was that this was everyone’s first time doing something like this,” says Fares. “As first-time entrepreneurs, we all had so much to learn.”

The team reached out to Startup Garage, a business accelerator program that provided logistical support and helped them find funding. Before then, Fares had been paying for the project all on his own.

“Startup Garage really helped us when it came to learning how to approach a school and what to talk about with them,” he says.

So far the project has been well received by students, he says.

U of O alumnus Melissa Aboudeid says the app helped her get more involved on campus.

“I was able to see what events were going on and learned about some new clubs,” she says. “As a result, I have made new friends and got more involved in the university life, like watching shows and fairs down at UCU.”

The team takes feedback very seriously, using feature requests to direct their expansion of the project. They worked with student unions at the U of O and Carleton to “make the app more useful to the students and groups they represent,” says Fares.

For Campusgrids, the next frontier is nationwide access to the application.

“Last year when we had a testing version, someone visited Carleton from the University of Saskatchewan and they really wanted it,” says Fares. “So now we want to take it to the rest of the country.”