Creston’s Shaun Bourgeois is one of two Simon Fraser University grads to earn a 2016 Governor General’s Silver Medal.
The 2010 Prince Charles Secondary School grad scored an A-plus in 42 of his 46 bachelor’s degree program courses, racking up a spectacular 4.29 out of a possible 4.33 grade point average. He previously won the Governor General’s Academic Medal.
“Shaun has been receiving awards his entire life — when he was young he earned ribbons at the fall fair for his artwork (drawing and sculpting) and he won a North American competition composing a musical composition for piano,” said his mother, Christine. “Later he was awarded many medals in hockey and academic awards throughout high school.”
Christine was Shaun’s home-school teacher from Grades 1-7.
“However, my parents (Christine and Paul Bourgeois) recognized the value in being involved within the community,” Shaun said. “Among other activities, I played hockey through Creston Valley Minor Hockey for 10 years, studied and performed piano under Anita Stushnoff and Audrey Johnson for six years altogether, and was even a paperboy for the Creston Valley Advance for seven years.
“For Grades 8-12, I attended Prince Charles Secondary School. I believe that all of the teachers from my early education helped provide me with a strong foundation for my post-secondary endeavors. I am truly blessed and grateful to have studied under such talented and supportive people. I would particularly like to thank my science teachers (Doug Kunzelman, Michael Fischer and Lois McNeice), my math teachers (Mike Nelson and Melanie Lankhaar), as well as my mother.”
With an applied science degree in mechatronic systems engineering, Bourgeois has always had an interest in science.
“Science and math were particularly interesting to me throughout both elementary and high school,” he said. “I have always had somewhat of an aptitude and enthusiasm for these subjects, so I decided to continue my studies in these subjects as optional courses in my senior years of high school, and then even further into my post-secondary education.”
His current interest, mechatronics, is a multidisciplinary field that includes mechanical, electrical and software fields of engineering.
“Initially, I became interested mechatronics when applying for admission to university because the prerequisite course requirements aligned with my interests — science and math — and I liked that the multidisciplinary nature of the program could lead to a wide range of possibilities for future work and further education. The inclusion of robotics as a topic of study also sparked my curiosity.
“Over of the course of my undergrad career, I continued to find the classes focusing on mechanical and robotics aspects of engineering to be most interesting. In particular, a course called manufacturing systems included lessons on how to dictate an arbitrary robot’s posture based on the positional state of its motors.
“So, in my fourth year as an undergraduate student, I acted on an opportunity to complete a co-op work term as a research student in one of SFU’s labs. This introduced me to the exoskeleton project on which I am currently working, where ‘exoskeleton’ refers to a wearable robot that helps its user achieve mobility at major bodily joints, such as the hip. The project’s focus on mechanism design and its objective to assist those with physical disabilities inspired me to specialize in the area of assistive robotic systems. My incredibly supportive and motivating research partner, Soheil Sadeqi, also helped inspire me to follow this route.”
What could this research lead to?
“The project has real potential to empower people who are otherwise immobile,” Bourgeois said. “The realized ability for people in wheelchairs, for example, to just stand among other people and be at eye-level — this is something I would like to help happen.”
Bourgeois is now pursuing a master’s degree in applied sciences at SFU.
“Shaun has always been determined to give his very best to everything he undertakes,” Christine said. “He grew up knowing people living with disabilities — perhaps this has fueled his compassion. I know it is his desire to have a positive impact. It’s a pleasure and honour to be his mom.”