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Sault eliminated from Smart Cities competition. Pic River named as finalist

Pic River First Nation is proposing an innovative education approach merging traditional knowledge with advanced technology

Sault Ste. Marie didn't make the initial cut in the multi-million dollar Smart Cities Challenge, but a tiny First Nation on the north shore of Lake Superior has been named a finalist.

The Sault's unsuccessful application focused on reversing population decline and youth out-migration by building the country’s most advanced youth engagement and data analytics platform.

Pic River First Nation, population 395, is one of five finalists in the running for $5 million in federal infrastructure cash.

Pic River described an innovative education proposal merging traditional knowledge with advanced technology.

The First Nation will receive $250,000 to prepare its final submission for the $5 million prize.

Winners will be announced in the spring of 2019.

The following is from Pic River's submission:

We are indigenously embracing the bilingual (Nishnaabemwin and English), K-12 STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education of our youth. At the end of high school, our youth will have received more than 2,000 hours of mobile-enabled, online Nishnaabe-language immersion instruction in all of our core aadsookaanan (sacred stories).

Additionally, our youth will be nearly-completely able to comprehend spoken Nishnaabemwin, will have attained a basic proficiency in coding and robotics, and will possess a strong foundation in mathematics and science.

All STEM subject videos and courses will be available under a creative commons license, in both Nishnaabemwin and in English. All of this education will occur online with a strong real-world participation component built into the program.

Our community's open source, mobile-enabled, eLearning platform facilitates the learning of the STEM subjects. And, our open source, mobile-enabled, eAcquisition platform facilitates the acquisition of our Nishnaabe language.

The entire educational experience is tied together with our community's mobile-enabled meetup platform serving as a bridge between the digital, online world and the material, real world.

Our youth are strongly encouraged and empowered to participate not only in online communities, but in the traditional Nishnaabe activities going on in the real-world community, as well.

Here's the full list of finalists:

$5 million prize category

  • Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation), Ontario
  • Cree Nation of Eastmain, Quebec
  • Town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
  • Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Quebec
  • City of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

$10 million prize category

  • Town of The Pas, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Rural Municipality of Kelsey, Manitoba
  • City of Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec
  • Nunavut Communities, Nunavut
  • Saint Mary’s First Nation and City of Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • Parkland, Brazeau, Lac Ste Anne and Yellowhead Counties, Alberta
  • City of Airdrie and Area, Alberta
  • City of Richmond, British Columbia
  • City of Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario
  • City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • Greater Victoria, British Columbia

$50 million prize category

  • Region of Waterloo, Ontario
  • Quebec City, Quebec
  • City of Edmonton, Alberta
  • City of Surrey and City of Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Montréal, Quebec


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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