By Fiona Lam
Aidan Eglin, a 17-year student from Okanagan, is one of the select few across Canada nominated for a Schulich Leader Scholarship, the most coveted undergraduate STEM scholarship. He will receive $80k towards his studies at the University of British Columbia where he begins his post-secondary studies this fall.
Each year, over 300,000 students apply for this prestigious award and only 100 of the best and brightest in Canada are selected. To be considered, students must “show outstanding community, business or entrepreneurial leadership, and achieve academic excellence”, qualities Aidan radiates through his accomplishments and contributions to the community.
In May 2019, Aidan landed in Halifax to represent British Columbia at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC), the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country. Aidan earned his place on this national stage after winning gold at the provincial competition earlier that year.
He joined 550 other competitors inside the Halifax Exhibition Centre as this 4-day national event commenced. Competing in the Web Design and Development division, Aidan’s project would be to develop a website for a Maritime Seafood Restaurant.
When the hosts read out the rules, Aidan was greeted with the unpleasant surprise that competitors are required to use PHP, a programming language he never learned because he had always preferred Node.js, a more modern language he believes works better. “My heart kind of sunk there,” he recalled.
His programming teacher and mentor, Philip Lepine, rushed to speak with the hosts in an attempt to find a solution for Aidan. The judges decided to allow Aidan to compete but he would be disqualified from medal standings. After another conversation the next day, they agreed to let Aidan run as part of the competition but he would be judged solely on the functionality and not the quality of his code. This decision would still cost him 10 marks out of 100 but now, Aidan was now back in the race.
Over the next two days, Aidan soared through the competition, finishing hours earlier than the rest of his competitors, none of whom managed to finish the task in time. “I had been coding for about 7 hours [on the first day] and I didn’t have a single bug. Everything went perfectly. It was amazing,” enthused Aidan. Even with the ten mark knockoff, Aidan now had a winning chance.
Lepine joked over dinner after the second day that if Aidan won this competition, he would get a perfect score in his class. And much to everyone’s surprise, Aidan won first place and a gleaming gold medal tribute to his teacher’s unwavering determination and Aidan’s remarkable skills.