UBCSolve brings education out of the classroom

Second-year students Abul Bashar Rahman and Stephanie Mazza are hosting UBC’s first international development challenge: UBCSolve. Over the span of twenty-four hours, students will collaborate to solve critical global development issues. Teams stand a chance to win $500 worth of prizes. Additionally, they will have the chance to meet with esteemed researchers, innovators and development professionals to discuss the largest development challenges in the modern world.

The event will be hosted online at twelve 12 p.m. on January 29 and end at twelve 12 p.m. on January 30. Opportunities include networking sessions, guest speaker presentations, working sessions with a team and more.

UBCSolve was born out of a need to educate. As two students in the International Economics program at UBC, Rahman and Mazza noticed that there were few opportunities for students to study international development outside of the classroom. They soon began devising a challenge for students with a passion for solving global issues. “UBCSolve offers students the chance to apply what they learn in class to real life scenarios,” Mazza said in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“This event acts as an outlet for students, and motivates them to take action, even within an online setting.”

UBC is known for attracting students from all over the globe, something UBCSolve hopes will encourage a variety of perspectives. As students try to solve the challenge given to them, they will consider various stakeholders while coming up with the solution.

“Let’s say that the students are looking at solving an issue centralized in rural communities around the world — in these vulnerable communities, it is important to look at different political spectrums and social norms,” said Rahman.

A twenty-four hour event, UBCSolve is packed with activities. Mazza offered a breakdown of the agenda. The first day of the conference is the longest one, and it starts at twelve p.m. It will be graced by keynote speakers such as Munir Squires from the Vancouver School of Economics and Heather Menezes, who started a charity in Ghana for rural villages. Students will then break out into teams to work collaboratively. Rahman highlighted “team-building games” and a “venture-building workshop” as not-to-miss parts of the event, before the presentation of ideas on the second day.

“We did our best to balance them with students in different faculties,” Rahman said.

Though the event was initially planned to be in-person, the emergence of the Omicron variant pushed things online. “We hit a speedbump when everything went virtual,” Mazza admitted. “We’d been planning this event since all the way back in November.”

After securing a grant from Vancouver School of Economics Undergraduate Society — the event’s main source of financial support — the two students bore the responsibility of planning all the logistics, marketing and guest speakers themselves.

“It was challenging with just the two of us, especially because of the restrictions,” Rahman noted. “But we didn't lose hope — we wanted to make this happen. While we’re upset it’s happening online, we don’t think it will be any less of an opportunity.”

Mazza emphasized that a university education is only one of the many ways to learn. As an experiential learning course, UBCSolve will show that even within the span of twenty-four hours, students can learn about development and the important skills that go along with it — empathy, connectivity and communication.

But Rahman and Mazza believe this is only the beginning. “Our main goal is to get people coming up with ideas. The next step is for them to implement them,” Rahman said.

“These issues take time to solve, and UBCSolve is only a launchpad.”