Saint Andrews student developing app to help fight climate change

Andrew Sutton/Courier SJDA Grade 12 student Simon Clarke, with IDEA Centre teacher Stacey Wood. With the help of the entrepreneurial program at the IDEA Centre, Clarke is developing an app which will track users carbon footprint and relay the information to them in an easy to understand way.

Saint Andrews – Simon Clarke is Grade 12 student at Sir James Dunn Academy. He’s in finals week of the second to last semester of his high school career, and he’s already thinking about the future – both his own, and the planet’s.

After he graduates, Clarke is planning on attending university to study engineering. In the meantime, he’s spending his time developing an app which he hopes will help combat climate change.

“Last year, there were many student led climate marches going on and they really inspired me to do something,” he said. “I became really interested in the climate change education side of things.”

At the start of Grade 12, Clarke was given the opportunity to take a course on entrepreneurship through the IDEA Centre, out of Saint John. In that course, he devised a plan for a product he wanted to create.

Clarke chose to work on an app that “will help people track their emissions and see what those emissions mean for the future of our world and our climate.” He points out in order to avert the worst of the effects of climate change, the average emissions per person need to be around two tonnes per year.

The global average is four tonnes, but the Canadian average is 22 tonnes – the highest amongst G20 economies. Clarke hopes to change that by showing people the carbon consequences of decisions they make every day in an easy to understand format.

“When you tell somebody that they have a carbon footprint of 20 tonnes per year, most people don’t really know what that means.” Clarke plans to use little “behavioral nudges” and techniques, along with giving users the ability to closely track their carbon footprint, as well as compare it to others in their community.

He hopes that these measures will help to change people’s views on climate change and their habits. Leading them to “create new, good environmental habits.”

The IDEA Centre was set up by a NB teacher named Ries Van Beek. It began three years ago, and since then has expanded to other cities in NB as well as an online.

“The IDEA Centre is both a physical space and virtual space,” said Stacey Wood, who runs the online program out of the Saint John office.

“They come to the centre and we basically teach them how to start their own business, or create their own charity, or develop some sort of a community service.

“We work with the students in the center. But then we also have students that join us online that become involved with the class, and we do the same with them.”

Clarke is currently the only student from Charlotte County who is a member of that online community.

The classes are held at ConnexionWorks, a coworking space in uptown Saint John, where students from various schools across the province gather for two periods each day virtually, connect with each other and with the face to face students and teachers to develop and grow their business and social enterprises. They receive mentorship and expertise from entrepreneurs, social innovators and community builders while receiving school credits for their work. ​

Clarke says that what interested him most about the program was the ability to foster his entrepreneurial spirit, and “having the freedom of picking your own project, and being able to create something and contribute to society in some way.”

For more information on the IDEA Centre, or to apply to one of their programs, visit them at ideacentrenb.ca

andrewsutton@stcroixcourier.ca