Mount Royal students tackle audacious problems that could disrupt ATB and beyond

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University partnered with ATB's Innovation team to bring 20 Mount Royal students through a one-month design sprint.

By Emily Knight


Mount Royal University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (the Institute) believes that “entrepreneur” is not simply a job title. The value of an entrepreneurial mindset expands well beyond founders and startups. This mindset enables individuals to impact the organizations they join, empowering them to spot and value opportunities and to create innovative solutions for companies of all sizes.


Talent with this entrepreneurial mindset are critical to the adaptability and growth of companies in today’s economy, marked by rapid technological change and unprecedented economic circumstances. Calgary Economic Development outlines Talent and Innovation in their Economic Strategic Plan as two focus areas needed to continue developing Calgary as the city of choice for the world’s best entrepreneurs (p. 12). Calgary ranks high in the number of new startups per capita and is reliant on high-impact talent to support the growth of those ventures (p. 19).


To support the economic strategic plan, this year the Institute launched a new program geared at accelerating high-impact talent to support the city’s growing and diversified industries. On January 08, 2020, the inaugural iteration of the Internship Sprint launched in partnership with ATB’s Innovation team (ATB). The opportunity engaged 20 Mount Royal students from computer information systems, information design, entrepreneurship and health science degree programs in a unique entrepreneurial work-integrated learning experience (EWIL). EWIL provides transformational learning experiences for students by engaging them in early-stage startup development or enabling them to develop ideas that solve real-world needs.


The ATB Internship Sprint utilized ideas from ATB’s pipeline and leveraged support from mentors from their LEAP and AI teams. Participating students worked in multidisciplinary teams with support from ATB mentors to validate and “hack” a solution for one of the organization’s actual ideas or problems during a paid, one-month design-sprint style internship. After four weeks of intensive research and ideation through a condensed Design Sprint, the teams presented their solutions to a panel of ATB’s product managers, senior leaders and researchers. Their solutions tackled opportunities in energy sharing, small business data, digital identity, and IoT.


ATB left with valuable connections to some of Mount Royal’s brightest talent and with headway on new solutions for their product team to explore. Nav Dhunay, Managing Director of ATB’s Innovation team said, "The MRU teams were very eager to learn the concept of Design Sprints and did an excellent job of working with their ATB mentors to break down ideas and understand what is required to turn an idea into a product and a business. The experience was not only beneficial to students, but it gave ATB team members an opportunity to mentor and work on their coaching skills - in addition to exploring new ideas with some creative thinkers."

Students left with paid experience working on out-of-the-box ideas, an expanded professional network and connections to other students outside of the faculty. Here is a word from the participants:

“Working in an interdisciplinary team and tackling a topic/technology [was] deeply outside my comfort zone! [I gained an] understanding that sometimes finding out an idea doesn’t work isn’t a failure and is extremely important to the design/collaborative process.” - Meagan McIntosh, information design student

“The sprint [...] taught me a lot about working on an actual project team to create an actual idea for consideration, instead of just working on a project for a class. That, alongside being in constant contact with people from [ATB], provided very valuable insights on what working in that kind of environment is like.” - Matthew Fudge, computer information systems student

This cohort of the Internship Sprint was just the beginning of the Institute’s work to connect Calgary’s innovative industry leaders to high-impact talent. In the coming years, the Institute plan’s to roll out future opportunities for students to take part in this transformational learning experience with other Calgairan companies and support the City’s focus on talent and innovation for Calgary in the New Economy. The Institute is actively looking for partners, if you believe your organization could be a fit for this program, please contact Jenn MacDonald at


Keep thinking bigger!