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Garnet Key Society's Forces of Change showcases student innovation

El-Mehdi Beghdadi's winning project aims to improve safety for those living with Alzheimer's and dementia
March 10, 2015
By Sara DuBreuil

Concordia’s 57th Garnet Key Society Top row (left to right): Oreoluwa Ajayi, Julia Carvalho, Jo Kim, vice president, Alexandra Buonanno, Dave Oram, president, Veronica Tamburro, secretary. Bottom row (left to right): Noor Mady, Remi Mireault, Rebecca Sciotto, Patricia Hachey, Alexandra Meikleham, treasurer, Leo Collard. | Photos courtesy of the Garnet Key Society.

Each year, the Garnet Key Society — a select group of Concordia student ambassadors — organizes a community project. This year’s event, Forces of Change, was a multidisciplinary competition designed to showcase student innovation.

Garnet Key Society is composed of 12 undergraduate students. They are chosen on their ability to balance high academic achievement with community involvement and serve as ambassadors, representing the university at various institutional events, such as lectures, galas and dinners.

The Forces of Change competition

Alexandra Meikleham, Garnet Key treasurer, described the Forces of Change event as “Dragon’s Den meets TEDTalks.” The goal was to engage the community and bring together all the different channels at the university.

The five student teams selected for the final competition were asked to answer the question, “What do you envision to be the major force of change for the future?” They gave a 10-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges, which was followed by a two- to three-minute question-and-answer session.

The judges included the director of The District 3 Innovation Center, Xavier-Henri Hervé, Concordia professors and Garnet Key alumni.

The one-man team of software engineering student El-Mehdi Beghdadi took home the $1,000 prize with his smartwatch application designed to increase the safety of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and other at-risk populations.

Engineering student El-Mehdi Beghdadi took home the $1,000 prize with his smartwatch application. Engineering student El-Mehdi Beghdadi took home the $1,000 prize with his smartwatch application.

The last of five teams to present, Beghdadi impressed the judges with a live demonstration of his application that sends caregivers notifications if a charge wearing the watch wanders beyond a pre-established safe zone.

"I am glad that the judges liked my idea,” he said after the competition. “I believe that this project can really improve people's lives, and receiving this prize encourages me to keep on developing it,"

The president of the Garnet Key Society’s 57th Chapter, Dave Oram, says Forces of Change was a success because it helped the society spread the word about their overall mission while providing unique learning and networking opportunities to participants.

“We were able to provide presentation training through District 3 and, by assembling a diverse judging panel, hopefully provide connections for the students to be able to continue pursuing their ideas beyond the competition.”

The lively evening also included a silent auction that raised funds for the Garnet Key endowment fund.

Meet some of the members of the 57th Garnet Key Society:

Dave Oram: president

“Representing Concordia as a member of the Garnet Key is important to me because of the opportunity the university has provided to continue my education in a field that has always been of great personal interest,” says Dave Oram, a biology student graduating this spring. “The Garnet Key gives me a voice to be able to share the unbelievable opportunities at Concordia and help other students find their passion,” says Oram.

Oram is involved with iGEM Concordia, an undergraduate team that participates in an annual synthetic biology competition. Prior to Concordia, he completed his international bachelor of business administration at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and worked in the investment banking industry. That’s where he saw the potential of exponential technologies, which led him to study science at Concordia. 

Alexandra Meikleham: treasurer

Alexandra Meikleham is in her third year of civil engineering and is involved in the Global Engineering Initiative, a collaboration between Concordia and Engineers Without Borders. What’s more, she’s a tutor and dances 10 hours a week with a semi-professional troupe. Before coming to Concordia, she completed her bachelor’s at McGill and worked in the fashion industry. She says that the wealth of opportunities at Concordia is what makes the university so special.

“It speaks to the quality of the people that we have here who are engaged and who want to give those opportunities,” she says. “Being in Garnet Key is an opportunity to give back to something that has provided such an enriching experience for the last three years.”

Alexandra Buonanno: ambassador

In her third year of a BSc with honours in psychology, Alexandra Buonanno is focusing her research on leadership and organization. 

“When I came to Concordia for my orientation, I fell in love with the culture, the warmth and the amount of support that the university provides,” she says.

Buonanno has been a member of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), and she recently volunteered in the John Molson School of Business MBA International Case Competition. CC She is also a member of the Montreal Young Italian-Canadian Association. 

Noor Mady: project coordinator

“I believe that leadership is a necessary skill to success and that it is achieved through example,” says Noor Mady, a second-year student earning a BSc with honours in behavioural neuroscience.  

Mady is the shadowing coordinator at MedSpecs Concordia, a newly founded pre-med preparatory club, and is in the process of implementing the first-ever medical shadowing program at Concordia. She’s also using her project coordinator skills to plan a Concordia fundraiser for humanitarian aid.


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