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Making science come alive

IdeaMosaic, a startup at Ryerson’s Science Discovery Zone, creates immersive educational experiences
By: Will Sloan
November 09, 2017
From left: Reeda Mahmood and Nathan Battersby

Photo: Reeda Mahmood (Biomedical Science ’17) and Nathan Battersby (Biology ’17) are the founders of IdeaMosaic, one of the Science Discovery Zone’s first startups. Photo: Clifton Li.

Outreach, crowd-creation, creativity, and design: these are the tools of IdeaMosaic, one of the first startups incubated in Ryerson’s Science Discovery Zone. Created by Reeda Mahmood (Biomedical Science ’17) and Nathan Battersby (Biology ’17), IdeaMosaiac uses engaging and immersive education experiences to make science come alive.

“There are other companies around that do science engagement, and there are a lot of organizations that are currently pursuing the intersection between science and art,” said Battersby, “but we haven’t found any other company that does creative science engagement using art, design, and crowd-creation in the way that IdeaMosaic does as installations and experiences.”

Their initiatives so far have included external,Beakerhead, a science-in-a-bottle project, and external,Words of Science, a 10-foot-long, interactive public display featuring questions related to science literacy. Prior to founding IdeaMosaic, Mahmood and Battersby collaborated on the Guinness World Record for external,Longest DNA Model. “Our goal with this company is to have fun,” said Battersby. “It’s an avenue for Reeda and I to do what we love while making a difference in the world.”

The latest addition to Ryerson’s external,zone learning network, the Science Discovery Zone is an interdisciplinary space that offers mentorship and incubation for science-based entrepreneurs. For Battersby, the zone has offered a valuable crash-course in business management. “We had no experience in business—never taken a class in business—and to venture out and actually start a business, there was a lot that we had to learn. The zone has really helped us fill in the gaps on that side, as well as providing mentorship and putting us in touch with other science-based organizations.”

“I think the biggest help has been learning to take something that’s a passion, and turning it into something that can be monetized—that can be your career,” said Mahmood. “And just having access to design fabrication resources, and being able to go into a lab when we need to is very helpful. We wouldn’t have access to this elsewhere.”

For Mahmood, the zone’s mentorship mandate has helped ease her trajectory as a woman and person of colour in a largely male-dominated discipline. “When you go into a room and the first thought in your mind is, ‘I’m the only person here who’s a woman of colour,’ then you feel very self-conscious,” she said. “There aren’t many women and people of colour in science, and while that’s definitely changing, it’s still an uphill battle. When I have meetings between Nathan and I, people go to Nathan first, even if it’s a project I’m responsible for.

“The way I deal with it is to do more and more projects, and with more and more mentorship, I think about it less and less,” she continued. “Mentors like Bryan Koivisto [director of the Zone] really support me, and the zone has connected us to mentors from organizations like Ontario Genomics. Being in touch with these people and getting support from them has really helped me not think about that as much. I realize I’ve been lucky enough to have all these cool experiences, and I want to keep doing it.”

For more information on IdeaMosaic, visit external,ideamosaic.ca.