REAP is a non-credit research initiative at the University of Waterloo that pays undergraduate students to develop new uses and markets for interactive display technologies. Arts-led, though not arts-exclusive, this initiative employs the students from all faculties as research entrepreneurs for short and longer term projects.

+Initially, the research entrepreneurs–or REAPsters–work independently on a 2-3 week (approx. 10 hours) research assignment. Following one or more of these research ‘sprints’, students may be assigned to a team with other students to work on a longer term assignment. Some of these projects may result in a business startup for the student team.

Along the way, students gain applied, practical and relevant experience in entrepreneurship. These skills provide a competitive advantage when they enter the workforce or start their own business.

And, they get paid to play with really cool stuff.

One student put it this way;

“REAP has proved to be an incredibly beneficial experience for me as it helped teach me effective lean start up techniques and  make me aware of digital media trends.  By working with other students across multiple disciplines, REAP helped shape my leadership techniques and team work skills.  It also was incredibly vital in connecting me with industry professionals who have provided countless hours of mentorship and networking opportunities.”

If you are interested in becoming involved, contact us and tell us a bit about yourself. Undergraduate students from all faculties are welcome.

Reaping the benefits as REAP alumni

by Marta Borowska

When you’re starting off university you might have an idea about a career path, you might have your future already mapped out, or, as it was for me, you might have no idea what you are getting yourself into and where it’s going to lead.

I had decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in English and for the first two years I constantly found myself questioning the career options I would have come graduation. Upon learning my major, people would often ask me, “Do you want to become a teacher?” to which I would reply “No, I do not,” triggering the follow-up question which I too often heard, “So then what are you going to do with your degree?”

I was always frustrated to hear this question, and though I didn’t have an answer, I knew that at the very least I needed something that would stop me from thinking that my degree would only lead to teaching or becoming a journalist.

A few months after my last degree interrogation I had been offered a position as a project manager on a  REAP team. This had been exactly what I needed and it turned out being even more.

Over the course of three terms, I had the privilege of working with two great teams on innovative technology projects and took part in many rewarding experiences such as project managing the pre-beta stage of a mobile device software, background acting in a prototype video, collaborating through the on-line REAP community, writing a 6-month business plan, presenting team projects to the Executive Board and clients, and supporting my teams through technical and interpersonal challenges.

We were put into groups with students from across faculties and asked to put our skills together towards an end goal. Subsequently we generated more well-rounded ideas and were able to consider many aspects that we may have otherwise not given a thought to on our own.

I think this collaboration was one of the most rewarding aspects of REAP. It allowed you to build so many connections with fellow UW peers, REAP mentors, entrepreneurs, and industry partners.

It was through REAP that I had connected with two UW students, now alumni, that began their own video production company called Arc Media.

There I was able to apply my project management experience from REAP to assisting in pre&post-production, video editing, production management, and social media management.

Although it did not end at that.

In the last few months I have worked as a Digital Media Research Assistant and an Assistant Film & Coordinator at The Banff Centre (TBC) in Banff, AB. I worked on a digital asset management report and assisted in organizing and preparing marketing materials for TBC for South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest film, interactive, and music festivals/conferences taking place annually.

I will be going back to work as a Field Producer in the Film & Media department with many exciting projects awaiting my return.

Through these examples I can confidently say that REAP has in many ways been the root of countless opportunities I have come across. It has helped me polish my research abilities, developed my comfort and ability to work in teams, and connected to me people and opportunities I wouldn’t have received otherwise.

Even though I am now REAP alumni, it is one of those programs that has opened so many doors that I am taking them one at a time and waiting to see where the next one will lead me.