Nanaimo student selected for prestigious program

Teen hopes his acceptance into the Shad Valley program this summer will help him learn to make a business out of his passion for problem solving

Max Meyer

Max Meyer

For a school project last year, Max Meyer built a remotely operated underwater vehicle with help from his father.

The endeavour took many hours and involved a lot of troubleshooting, from designing the ROV to ensuring the cables were neutrally buoyant to figuring out the attachments – a camera he connected to his father’s computer and a little arm he used to pick up shells from the ocean floor.

“I really like building things with my hands,” said Meyer, a Grade 11 student at Aspengrove School.

He blames his passion for problem solving on his red hair and the stubbornness that stereotypically comes with it.

“When you get to fix a problem that no one else can fix, it’s just truly rewarding,” he said.

The ROV project also had a practical application for Meyer – to assist in his scuba diving activities. He’s been diving since he was 14.

“It’s kind of nice to look at where you dive before you go,” he said.

Meyer’s mechanical engineering skills have come a long way since his early days playing around with Lego, and he hopes his acceptance into the Shad Valley program this summer will help him learn to make a business out of his passion.

Shad Valley is a month-long program that brings 500 senior high school students across Canada to 10 universities, where they have an opportunity to learn about advanced topics in an atmosphere centred on fusing innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology.

The program aims to support future industry and academic leaders.

Meyer will head to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. in July, where he will participate in lectures, workshops and team-building activities run by university faculty and industry leaders.

He hopes to start his own company one day, so the program’s focus on joining science and business is a perfect fit.

“I’m a fairly independent person,” said Meyer. “I want to call my own shots.”

Mary Dever, national director of development for Shad Valley, said Meyer exceeded all expectations in his application.

Besides scuba diving and building things – such as the ROV and a go-kart – Meyer is also into mountain biking, welding, sailing, boating and rock climbing. In school, he’s involved with numerous clubs and excels in his studies.

The Shad Valley program looks for creative, bright students with good interpersonal skills and lots of initiative and drive.

More than 1,000 students apply each year, Dever added, so it is a very competitive process to get in.

“What Shad Valley is trying to do is contribute to Canada’s innovation capacity,” said Dever.

Shad Valley has numerous supporters, including Research in Motion, IBM and Encana.

The program was founded in 1981 by Derek Lane-Smith, a parent, teacher, physicist and entrepreneur, who wanted to provide a motivational summer education program for outstanding youth. He named the program after a creek that runs through the grounds of St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont.