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Calgary's Knowledge Society inspires new generation of leaders

A new kind of learning space targets teens with big ideas

Navid and Nadeem Nathoo want to inspire Canadian kids to reach higher, and build a better future.

Aaron Chatha / Metro

Navid and Nadeem Nathoo want to inspire Canadian kids to reach higher, and build a better future.

Calgary entrepreneur Navid Nathoo thinks Canadian kids don’t have as much ambition as their American counterparts.

With his brother Nadeem, Nathoo is aiming to inspire the next generation to reach a little further, through a unique learning program inspired by the workflow of companies like Google and Facebook.

“When you ask a student what do you want to be when they grow up, in Calgary, they’ll respond with an engineer at Suncor or maybe a lawyer. In Toronto, it might be I want to work at Goldman Sachs or consulting at McKinsey,” Nathoo explained. “But when you go to San Francisco and you ask a Stanford student, what do you want to be when you grow up, they say I want to build the next Google. Build the next electric car company. I want to be like Elon Musk.”

Nathoo has spent the last several years working out of San Francisco, and said there are many Canadian startups in the Silicon Valley – but not enough Canadians actually know about them.

The Knowledge Society, which launches its first program in August, targets kids from 13 to 17-years-old, exposing them to advanced topics like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, next generation cancer treatments and ultra poverty.

“We’re helping these kids understand that you can do big things,” Nathoo said. “We do that by exposing them to a variety of mentors from large companies like Facebook, Twitter and Goldman Sachs that are doing these big things.”

It’s not a traditional classroom – there are no teachers. Instead, kids work in teams tackling problems that don’t even have solutions yet.

“Imagine walking into a space where there’s a bunch of bean bag chairs, white boards, board games, snacks, drinks – an environment of learning where you’re given a problem, and you and your team have to learn how to explore that problem and figure it out,” Nathoo said.

They specifically targeting teens because they have a basic knowledge of technology, but haven’t started university where they might be too far along in their program or career path to become invested in solving these big ideas.

The deadline for the first round of the program is on July 10. For more information, visit theksociety.com.

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