She’s always on the go, so it’s probably unsurprising that Christy Xie felt moved to create an app that would help young people practise driving from the safety of their own homes.
A prototype and business plan for XYZ Virtual Reality Drive, a simulator to help drivers navigate parallel parking and safe passing through a fictional streetscape, won Xie and her team second place internationally in a student business competition.
Their plans are to refine the app and use Google Earth to allow students to simulate driving in their own neighbourhoods.
But first, Xie will be preparing for Western’s Integrated Sciences program as one of six incoming students to be awarded a prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship.
A dedicated computer programmer, she discovered during a hackathon that she would be receiving the award. The same unfamiliar phone number kept popping up on her incoming-calls list and she ignored it a few times before the caller’s persistence persuaded her to answer.
“I was on a video call and the whole hackathon found out at the same time I did. For me it’s a really great honour and I’m excited. It hasn’t really set in. Being able to win the award is great not only for the scholarship itself, but it will be helpful in being able to network and to continue to promote robotics and STEM in the community.”
Xie is a graduate of the Toronto French School, where she earned an International Baccalaureate and an average of 96 per cent in her Grade 12 courses. About half her courses throughout high school were in French: she is trilingual in English, Mandarin and French, with a working understanding of Cantonese.
Her parents are both entrepreneurs working in the technology/innovation/robotics field and she has been keen on following the same path since, in elementary school, she entered FIRST Lego League competitions in basic robotics.
Her school had no robotics team, so she started one. They went on to win in provincial competitions and won an ‘inspiration’ award for how the project team connected students from Grades 6 to 12.
Xie also began, in 2018, a not-for-profit organization called STEAM Program for Youth, as a way to encourage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The initiative won her a Leading Girls, Building Communities Award, presented by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to recognize girls who demonstrate leadership in working to improve their communities through volunteer work.
This summer, she is teaching coding as part of a virtual kids’ camp. And once various Ontario services reopen, she hopes to do her driving road test – a real-world proof-of-concept of the effectiveness of XYZ VR.
“I can’t keep still. I’m always having to find new things to do,” she said.
Although she hasn’t yet visited Western, she has received enthusiastic reviews from friends who are students. She is especially looking forward to Western’s entrepreneurship focus, and to developing her ideas for artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Created by Canadian business leader and philanthropist Seymour Schulich in 2012, the $200-million Schulich Leader Scholarship program encourages high school graduates to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines in their future careers.
The program provides 100 undergraduate scholarships of $80,000 for students entering science, technology or math programs and $100,000 for students pursuing engineering degrees across top Canadian universities each year.
Profiles of all six incoming Schulich Leader Scholarship winners can be found here.