Our Beginnings at HotDesq - Brisbane, Australia

Jan 18, 2017. By: Derek Jouppi (derek@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#HotDesq1

Advance Queensland, an entrepreneurship scheme by the Queensland government, put out a grant named HotDesq designed to attract international startups to come to work in Brisbane for a minimum of 6 months. With Queensland having the worlds highest rate of skin cancer, and the program occurring during our traditional Canadian winter, there were a ton of reasons why applying and joining were the right decision. Read below to learn about how we ended up here and what we're up to in Australia in 2017!


The world is a weird place sometimes. You never really know who you're going to meet next, or how simply one new connection can spark a chain of many more that ultimately when looked back upon appears to resemble a "journey".

January 2016

Our connection into Australia started (nearly exactly) one year ago, at the Queen's Entrepreneurs Competition of 2016 .

I pitched in a packed room with 4 investors and financial experts in the preliminary judging round. One of these judges was John Trang (pictured above)! John pulled me aside after the judging round had completed, and said that "no matter what happens, you need to talk to my wife Marisa [Caple]. She created the famous YouTube video, "Dear 16 Year Old Me" , and she could open doors for you in the skin cancer community!". I was stoked. We exchanged business cards, and I followed up over email with John later that evening.

February 2016

Marisa came from a background of marketing and advertising, and was in the midst of completing her Masters in Public Health. I then learned that public health professionals correlate behaviour change, influencing factors, and epidemiological data (ie. studies about the population over time) to drive better health standards for a population. This was almost too perfect to be true. A new friend who was an expert in marketing and advertising, directed one of the most popular skin cancer awareness campaigns of all time, and now was able to help shed some light on how we can use behaviour change (better sun protection behaviours!) to direct change in a population from the perspective of public health professionals.

March 2016

With Marisa's help and guidance, she introduced me to the world of public health research. When it comes to research about sun exposure and skin cancer, no country has more published data than Australia. Over a month or so we found new papers and I wrote up a summary of about 15 different papers that I had found that all pointed to Australia being the place we needed to be. It turned out that her experience working on Dear 16 Year Old Me left her with connections to the Cancer Council of New South Wales. She set us up with an introductory meeting (with CCNSW), and we were then given a list of follow-up tasks. Our most important follow-up was to have the industry experts in sun exposure and skin cancer publish peer reviewed studies about the performance of Spot so that they could validate that the technology would provide a positive public health impact - a perfectly reasonable demand.

April 2016

We put two and two together. In one hand, we wanted the approval of the Cancer Council, and in the other we knew we needed a researcher. So I came up with the idea of looking through the list of grant recipients funded by the Cancer Council - if a researcher was already approved by them and working in sun exposure, then we'd be set. The Cancer Council in each state is independent, and although there were 8 states, only one readily available link to read a budget report was available. However, I noticed that the New South Wales file naming convention ended in *NSW.pdf. So naturally, I tried *QLD.pdf to see what would happen -- and bingo, on their server, the Queensland Cancer Council budget was pulled up. This worked for the other states, and eventually I had a giant list of projects to sort through. But one project title stood out - an investigation into sun protective devices lead by Dr. Elke Hacker of QUT. We scheduled a phone call, she loved it, and our research partnership was set to go!

May 2016

While all of the above was going on, we had been pitching to Johnson and Johnson to become Quickfire Challenge winners of their new JLABS at Toronto program that was due to open up in June. When we walked in the room, we noticed that we had a familiar face on the other side of the table - Rebecca Yu. I had scrambled to do a pitch to Rebecca after an in-lab demo at Velocity Science. Rebecca had come for a tour of our lab inclubator prior to setting up JLABS off of a tip from our mentor Jenn Coggan's sister. That in itself shows the list of seemingly random connections that at the end of the day, make it seem like this introduction was well thought out and planned!

June 2016

We did win the challenge, and began to work with Rebecca Yu and her team at the site shortly after. Check out the awesome picture of the team partying it up at the opening of the office!

July 2016

In mentioning to the team at JLABS that we were about to do some clinical trials in Australia, our mentors mentioned that Johnson & Johnson had recently opened up a partnering office in Australia, and that they were looking for J&J mentored companies to begin to move in. They looked into the manner for us, and once again another intro phone call was setup!

We soon began talking to Kathy Connell (the director of the new Australian J&J Partnering Office), and she graciously offered us a desk if we wanted to move down. So we looked up where Dr. Hacker's office was, and to our surprise they were not only in the same building, but they were on the same floor as well - just across the halls from each other.

So with an office and research happening in the same building, in the same town, half way around the world, the question then became:

How do we get to Australia?

August 2016

Well, we used the help of our two new friends. Kathy told us about the HotDesq program, and Elke introduced us to Tim Evans from BlueBox (QUT's entrepreneurship hub). When we looked at the HotDesq program, we noticed that QUT Bluebox was one of the host organizations. Everything seemed to be making too much sense for it not to be a sure thing! We applied for $100k in funding to establish research partnerships, conduct high quality research, and generate sales in a market that is perfect for Spot.

October 2016

The rest is history I guess. By October we received word that we'd been accepted into HotDesq. Our first clinical trials began at the end of October, so I booked my flight to arrive in Brisbane by October 19th, just before the start of Australia's summer. The above picture shows me at the Queensland University of Technology Gardens Point campus, filming a promotional video for HotDesq

The connections that brought us here:

  • QEC to
  • John Trang to
  • Marisa Caple to
  • Cancer Council NSW to finish with
  • Elke Hacker (for research) &
  • Tim Evans (for entrepreneurship support)


  • Jenn Coggan to
  • her sister to
  • Rebecca Yu to
  • JLABS to finish with
  • Kathy Connell (desk space with J&J) &
  • introduced to HotDesq (for funding and community)

Now that we've arrived ,we're going to be working with Dr. Hacker and her team at QUT, as well as other skin cancer and dermatology experts from QUT, UQ, and the other surrounding scientific community. We're looking forward to working with Surf Life Saving Queensland as some of their branches have expressed interest in being pilot groups with Spot, when we're ready to engage them following the certification of our product.

In 2017, we will finish conducting our high quality research to show that Spots are effective. Then, we'll bring you Spots. We promise. And they will be legendary. Signing off, - Derek.

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Suncayr wins Unlock Your Big Idea $10k

May 6, 2016. By: Derek Jouppi (derek@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#UYBIpitch

Unlock Your Big Idea - a pitch competition hosted by the Ontario Network of Entrepeneurs , Humber College, I-CUBE , University of Toronto Mississauga , the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre and the RIC Centre was underway at UTM yesterday. We're happy to share that we won the grand prize for our Investment Ready category, walking away with $10,000!


Thanks to all of the sponsors and judges for staying extra late to wrap up the competition! Congratulations to the other competitors with a special mention to fellow Velocity startup Medella Health for placing 1st in their category!

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Amazing news from yesterday's VFF: The new VFF100k! Our thoughts:

April 1, 2016. By: Derek Jouppi (derek@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#vff100k

At yesterday's VFF, Mike Kirkup shocked the great hall at the SLC by delivering an unexpected update. Velocity will now be opening up a once a year pitch competition with one prize of $100,000 for teams that have won the $25k competition. As a company that's won VFF25k before, we'll let you know about this shocking news!


Taking the podium yesterday, Kirkup announced to the room that, "The pitches at this VFF have a resounding 'meh' to them." - contrary to what the audience was expecting to hear. Apparently, the pitch talent hadn't improved since last term's VFF. "We need to up the ante," Kirkup elaborated, "since you filthy casuals think you're pitching a t-ball game. We need to bring back the veterans who will mop the pitching floor with you scallywags."

"We need to up the ante..."

Frustrated by the low energy in the room, he threw his script on the floor and shocked the participants with the news of the $100,000 prize. "Velocity will now be hosting the worlds first pitch competition", he said as he leant closer into the microphone. Children shuddered as his booming voice rattled bolts loose in a few chairs, "It will be conducted in three phases, and here's how it will be run".

First Round

First, each team will give a 1 minute pitch.

Then a 5 minute pitch.

Then a 10 minute pitch.

Then the 1 minute pitch again!

Each pitch will happen in a separate room on campus. Participants will be given a set of GPS coordinates, a compass, the treat from from the Garage's weekly treat day, and most importantly a map containing Nordic runes and riddles to decipher. Each team must navigate their way to the room in time for their allocated slot.

And don't sweat it , each team will have their own live stream. Spectators would watch all 10 screens in the SLC great hall, snacking on the sandwiches, giant cookies, and never the veggie bag.

Second Round

Any teams that survive the pitching round must show that their team is fit to win this award. Physically - and literally - fit. As a team, they must answer rapid fire questions in a 10 minute Q&A, contorting their body through the right hole to answer to the judges. Failure to answer a single question right will result in that founder being pushed into a pit full of Velocity hoodies.

Teams should expect questions such as:

  • Does your prototype work, or are you just lying about it to win the competition?
  • How many competitors did you omit from your presentations?
  • Describe your 3-5 year financial forecast.
  • Would your technology disrupt the toaster strudel market?

Third Round

Once teams have successfully "twisted their answers" and "bent the truth" through the second round, ninjas in yellow hoodies blindfold each team and load them onto a chopper, bound for none other than "Isla los Kirkup", the Velocity director's private island.

Competing through tough challenges, surviving the elements, and manipulating the competition, each team competes in a Survivor-fashion to gain immunity from being voted off of Kirkups version of the famous 'Tribal Council'. He prefers it be called the "Cap Table". As Knights of the Cap Table, the remaining teams cast a vote to kick off one of their competition, until only 4 teams remain. Viewers also cast one vote by texting the team they want to vote off to 27745-30057.

Our thoughts

At Suncayr, we're pretty excited to compete in this competition. Andrew's background as a fierce yet noble boy scout will no doubt come in handy, as his minor in Nordic translation will allow us to hastily navigate the campus to nail all of these pitches. Derek's quick thinking and years as a classically trained ballerina have never been more useful, and he will be the star of phase 2. Chad's rugged yet boyish good looks should charm the at-home viewers, ensuring that we will win the crowd vote.

Signing off, and April Fools... the Suncayr team! :)

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Do you still need sunscreen on a cloudy day?

December 1, 2015. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#sunscreenonacloudyday

The need for sunscreen when the sun is bright is pretty obvious. You can feel the sunlight warming your skin and many of us have experience enough painful sunburns to realize the effect of UV radiation. But do you need sunscreen on a cloudy day? Don’t the clouds block sunlight from reaching your skin?

Short answer:   Yes, you still need sunscreen on cloudy days!

Keep reading to find out why.


Clouds don’t block everything (and can actually make things worse!)

Clouds block some sunlight from reaching us. But this is primarily visible light, which is why clouds make everything darker. When it comes to UV light, clouds don’t do much at all. On average, only 13% of the sun’s UV rays are blocked by clouds, fog and mist. However, this does depend on the type of cloud. Grey clouds block 68% of the sun’s UV rays, while white, fluffy clouds only block 11%.

Beyond blocking UV, clouds can actually amplify the amount of UV light reaching you. This is known as the cloud enhancement of UV. This can be anything from a few percent to 50% higher UVB radiation than on a clear day. The actual mechanism by which this happens is unknown, but several studies suggest that reflections the sides of clouds may be the cause.

UV Index

Now, many of us rely on the forecasted UV index of the day to know the relative risk of going outside unprotected. However, some UV weather forecasts do not take into account the reflection off of clouds, or the effects of rain and pollution. They only base the UV index on a clear sky. This means that the effective level could be much higher than what is indicated.

Even a little sun can do a lot of damage

A day may seem extremely cloudy, but there are often sunnier breaks throughout, or it may clear up completely. Long term skin damage is caused by short, repeated exposure to the sun. Even a few minutes of bright sunlight can cause skin aging and skin cancer if you’re exposed to this every day. This isn’t often enough to cause a sunburn or tan, which means that we’re not even aware of how much damage our skin is accumulating over time! You are actually more at risk on cloudy days, as the UV light that is blocked is primarily UVB. UVB causes sunburns and tans, while UVA causes long term damage. You are less likely to experience the immediate obvious effects of the sun, but the long term damage to your skin is still occurring.

Sun exposure is the major contributor to skin aging, causing symptoms like wrinkles, age spots, dilated blood vessels, spider veins, red bumps, growths, and raised dark spots. To avoid these problems, and the more serious problem, skin cancer, we should be avoiding direct sun exposure as much as possible.

What about colder days?

The amount of UV radiation that reaches us is completely independent of temperature. This means that you are at the same level of risk on a crisp autumn day as you are on a blazingly hot summer day. Snow, in fact, can make things even worse. UV radiation bounces off of snow in the same way that it bounces off of clouds. This means that you can be exposed to significantly more UV radiation than normal.

Build a habit

One of the biggest problems with avoiding the use of sunscreen on cloudy days is that it prevents you from getting into the habit of using sunscreen effectively. Ideally, you should be using sunscreen every day. It’s better to make sunscreen application part of your daily routine than to selectively choose days. And keep a bottle with you at school or work so that you can reapply throughout the day!

Stay tuned for a blog post about appropriate sunscreen use during the winter!

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How the ozone protects you and what you can do to protect it

September 17th, 2015. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#howozoneprotectsyou

Yesterday was World Ozone Day. This marks the 30th year that the United Nations has worked to protect the Ozone layer from further damage. This was agreed to by many countries in form of the Montreal Protocol on September 16, 1987. It aims to prevent the use of chemicals that can cause ozone depletion.


The United Nations marketed the date this year with the slogan “Ozone: All there is Between You and UV.” Many of you are probably familiar with the use of sunscreen to protect yourself from UV, but I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the earth’s first line of defense against harmful radiation produced by the sun.

How the ozone protects you

The ozone layer filters the majority of UV radiation. Without it, this radiation would threaten the entire existence of life on Earth! Unfiltered UV radiation can also have serious effects on the environment.

The more ozone that is in the atmosphere, the more protection we have from UV. The ozone layer thickness varies and this leads to different levels of UV radiation measured at the Earth’s surface. UV radiation is higher near the equator and lower near the poles, and the southern hemisphere generally has higher levels than the northern hemisphere.

That’s great, but why should you care?

Ozone forms naturally, but some chemicals interfere with its production. A hole was discovered in the ozone layer during the 1980s. This prompted the United Nations to take action to avoid catastrophic global climate change. The Montreal Protocol was created to reduce the production and use of ozone depleting substances. Since the development of this international agreement, the use of ozone depleting substances has dropped dramatically, and the ozone layer has started to recover.

Unfortunately, phasing out ozone depleting substances led to the popularity of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are better for the ozone layer, but contribute significantly to global warming. The UN has introduced new agreements to avoid the use of these chemicals, but it hasn’t had the same global acceptance as the earlier proposals.

How you can help

Luckily, there’s some easy things that you can do to help protect the ozone and your skin while avoiding global climate change!

  • 1. Avoid purchasing products with chemicals that deplete the ozone - This includes chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Look for “halogenated carbon” or “halon” in the ingredients list.
  • 2. Dispose of any appliances manufactured prior to 1995 - These devices use CFCs and can release this chemical into the atmosphere
  • 3. Avoid wood products that were treated with methyl bromide - This pesticide can release elemental bromine into the atmosphere. Pallets and crates will carry a stamp that indicates how it was treated. If you don’t see a stamp, ask the person selling the lumber for information on how the wood was treated.
  • 4. Avoid driving - the internal combustion in vehicles produces nitrous oxide, which both deplete the ozone and contributes to global warming. Consider public transit or carpooling when commuting to school or work
  • 5. Eat less meat - farming contributes a lot of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere as this gas is produced when manure decomposes
  • 6. Dispose of old insulating foams containing ozone depleting substances when renovating your home
  • 7. Use eco-friendly household cleaning products
  • 8. Avoid using pesticides
  • 9. Plant trees
  • 10. Follow the 3 R’s: Reduce, reuse, recycle!

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Ultimate Guide: Getting into the Back to School Groove

September 10th, 2015. By: Victoria Mazurek (victoria@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#backtoschool

It’s that time of year again! Since the beginning of August we have all been bombarded by #backtoschool ads and have seen school supplies laid out in the fronts of department stores. Yet the realization of summer coming to an end probably didn’t hit until Labour Day weekend. Say goodbye to late nights, sleeping in, and days filled with fun activities.


At the beginning it may be hard for your kids to adjust to the school routine but with time it will eventually feel like second nature. Setting a plan from the start is very important because it sets the tone for the term. Implementing a family calendar for important dates will not only help family members stay in sync, but also teach your kids about goal setting.

Also, this is a great time to get back into healthy eating habits if your child’s diet has swayed during the past couple of months. It’s important for kids to stay active for not only for the health benefits, but also to improve your child’s self-esteem and social skills.

Continue reading for a more detailed plan that you can apply to you and your family’s daily life to help get into the back to school groove!

Establishing a Routine


Set an alarm in the morning for your kids. Be sure to place the alarm away from the bed. This will help stop your child from pressing the snooze button, and force them to get up and turn off the alarm. To make it easier to get up, be sure to have the kids choose what they want to wear the night before. This will help avoid guessing or fussing. Also, have a rough estimate of what time to be dressed, have breakfast and to be out of the house. That will ensure the likelihood of being on time.

After School

The first week of school will probably consist of figuring out what sports teams to be a part of and what clubs to join. By the second week of school kids should have an accurate read on the length of after school programs. This will further dictate how they should spend their time when it comes to outside commitments and studying. Making a schedule is a must!


Create a nighttime routine to ensure that kids get plenty of rest for the next day. As mentioned above, choosing clothes for the next day can help the morning run smoothly. Also, get rid of all electronics to remove distractions before bed. According to Dr. Dan Siegal, the LED light from smart phones fools the brain into thinking that it is still light out, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Instead, kids should rehearse their notes for fifteen minutes before bed or read a book.

Healthier Eating Habits

During the summer it can be easier for kids to reach for junk food. Getting out of that habit for the school year is essential to stay healthy. The Canadian Food Guide provides great advice to follow to make sure that you and your family are getting the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The guide breaks down the four food groups and gives examples of how to attain those servings.

School Events/Sports/Clubs/Activities

Encourage your children to try out for sports teams, and to join clubs and other activities at school. By doing so, children can make new friends and develop their personality. When it comes to sports, Amanda Davis from Livestrong.com , says that some of the most crucial benefits are not only health but also:

Social Skills: Learn to interact with kids their own age as well as officials. They will have the opportunity to engage in being a team player, and learn how to be a leader.

Self Esteem: They will receive praise from their peers and coaches as well as learn how to handle criticism. This is an opportunity for kids to learn how to set goals and push themselves to achieve them. By learning this they can apply it to their studies as well.

Family Calendar

Having a family calendar, whether on paper or electronic (Google calendar), can make life a lot more efficient. Adding major dates as well as activities can make it easier to plan smaller events. It can establish a team atmosphere and help ease your kids back into school.

Bringing up the family calendar can also generate discussions around short term and long-term goals for the kids, and the family as a whole. You can break down larger goals into smaller chunks. For example, if a child wants to achieve a certain grade for a class, they can create a study breakdown whenever they have a test.

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Fun Things To Do This Long Weekend

September 3rd, 2015. By: Victoria Mazurek (victoria@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#longweekendactivities

The long weekend is almost here and it's time to make a list of fun activities to do with your loved ones. Outdoor activities give the chance for a family to walk away from their electronics, stay active, and build memories with one another. Here are some activities that can help with family bonding this long weekend.


Backyard Games

1. Pass the Water

Pass the water is a game by "A Girl and a Glue Gun". It is very easy to follow along and is sure to get the kids to laugh. The only supplies needed for this game are cups and water. First get everyone to stand in a line with their cup. The leader is the only one whose cup is filled. The leader then has to put the cup over their head and try to pour it in the next person’s cup. Everyone in line keeps going until all the water is gone!

2. Foam Racket Game

This is a game that younger children can enjoy playing. It's similar to badminton, but the only difference is the gear is homemade. The idea of the Foam Racket Game is to keep the balloon off the ground by using foam rackets. Here are the steps to create the foam rackets:

  • a) Cover paint stirrers or rulers with tape
  • b) Cut craft foam into your favourite shapes
  • c) Tape foam circles to handles
  • d) Blow up a balloon and start!

3. Water Balloon Target Practice

The only supplies that are needed for this game are chalk and balloons filled with water. For Water Balloon Target Practice you just need to draw a target on pavement with sidewalk chalk. You can add points to each target if you want to be competitive. Then aim and throw the balloon!

Pool Games

1. Marco Polo

A simple yet fun game to play with the family! Choose one person to be 'it' and have them close their eyes and count to ten out loud, while having the other team members swim away from the person who is 'it'. The person who is it must keep their eyes closed the entire game and say 'Marco' while the other players answer by saying 'Polo'. Whoever gets touched first by the player who is it must be 'Marco' next.

2.Treasure Hunt

Drop coins or pool toys into the pool. Dive into the pool and retrieve the object. You can make it into a competition by seeing who can get the objects first. I loved this game as a kid! I played it for hours with my friends and family.

3. Octopus

The way that octopus works is that players have to get from one end to the other without getting caught. If they do get tagged they have to link arms with the octopus and try to get other players. The last person standing is the winner of the game.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun time this long weekend with their loved ones. Take advantage of what is left of summer! Have fun playing these games and make some lasting memories with your family.

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6 of the Coolest Trends in Sun Protection

August 28th, 2015. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#6sunscreentrends

As more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of UV radiation, we’re seeing a lot more sun protection products and ideas on the market. This week, I’m highlighting some of the best trends, as well as one that I wish had never started.


1. Free Sunscreen Dispensers

Beaches in Boston and Miami started offering free sunscreen this summer. Unfortunately we haven’t seen the trend catch on in Canada. Toronto Public Health commented that this would give people a false sense of security and instead encouraged people to limit their time outside.

Staying inside during peak sun hours (11 AM - 4 PM) is definitely the best way to avoid the harmful effects of the sun. But for when that’s not an option, sunscreen is the next best defense. I love the idea of making it more accessible and I’m hoping that sunscreen dispensers will roll out in Canada by next summer!

2. Sunscreen Made from Fish Slime

What do algae and fish slime have in common? They both contain mycosporines, a substance that help protect ocean life from UV radiation. Scientists have just figured out a way to make sunscreen from this substance. Mycosporines provide both UVA and UVB protection, and have actually been used in sunscreen before. Unfortunately they can easily penetrate the skin, and are easily washed off. To combat these problems, scientists have combined the mycosporines with chitosan, found in sea shells.

This is great news for the environment as both components are extremely eco-friendly! It’s also hypoallergenic. The researchers also think that the mycosporines would work well to help protect fabric and paints from UV damage.

3. UV-Protective Clothing

Most clothing will give you a decent amount of sun protection. However, for those long days outside with a high UV index, sometimes it’s not enough. This has led to a lot more UV-protective clothing on the market. This is great for people like fishers, construction workers, or really anyone else who is spending the majority of their time outside.

4. UV Protection beyond the Face

Foundations and other makeup have had sun protection for a while, but we’re now starting to see that protection beyond the face. You can now find lotions, nail polish, and even shampoos and conditioners with sun protection.

5. Sunscreen Sticks

For those who hate the feeling of cream sunscreen, but are worried about the effectiveness of spray sunscreen, there’s sunscreen sticks. These generally look and are applied like a deodorant stick. They’re just as small too, so you can easily stash one in your pocket or purse!

You need to rub back and forth over each spot about four times in order to apply enough sunscreen. You can find both physical and chemical sunscreen sticks. These are just as effective as cream or spray sunscreens as long as they are applied correctly!

6. Drinkable “Sunscreen”

Although we won’t be able to avoid traditional sunscreen just yet, companies are working on ways of boosting our own body’s natural sun protection. A new type of juice is packed with vitamins phytonutrients and antioxidants that are “scientifically proven to protect the skin from the inside out.” Dermatologists are still skeptical about the product, and I am too. They say that this shouldn’t be used as a replacement for sunscreen, but is a great idea in theory. I’m curious to try it out though, at least for the extra nutrients!

And then there's Sunburn Art - A trend that isn’t so cool

I hope the idea of purposely burning your skin for “art” is as incredibly ridiculous to you as it is to me. I couldn’t believe this when I heard it, but a quick Google search produced thousands of pictures across social media.

There’s a few ways that people are getting this effect, with varying levels of risk. One of the more dangerous is applying sunscreen only in a certain location so that it will stay lighter than the rest of your burned skin. Others apply stickers to their skin in the desired areas.

If you see any of these pictures pop up on your social media, help us out and let your friend know about the dangers of sunburns!

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Suncayr's Guide to Sunscreen

August 19th, 2015. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#sunscreenguide

We’re bombarded by options the second that we walk into a sunscreen aisle. It seems almost impossible to choose just one. So where do you even start?


First, make sure that any sunscreen you use has an SPF of at least 15, provides broad spectrum protection, and is water and sweat resistant. If you’re buying sunscreen for children or you have skin problems or allergies, make sure you look for a sunscreen designed for sensitive skin. Also make sure to check the expiry date of the sunscreen. The active ingredients do break down over time!

Beyond these basic guidelines, there’s a few major differences between the sunscreens out on the market today.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreen

The difference between chemical and physical sunscreens is the type of UV filter that they use. Physical sunscreens deflect or block sun rays from reaching your skin. This type of sunscreen uses UV filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These provide broad spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. UVB causes sunburns, while UVA penetrates the skin more deeply and can cause wrinkles. Both can lead to skin cancer. Physical sunscreens have traditionally been messy, visible and difficult to remove from the skin. However, advances in processing have led to this type of sunscreen being more cosmetically acceptable.

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb the sun’s rays and use chemicals such as octylcrylene and avobenzone. Every chemical sunscreen will block UVB radiation, with more today also containing UVA absorbers. Chemical sunscreens are often colourless, but a thin film may be visible on the skin when applied.

For a more detailed look at the differences between chemical and physical sunscreens, check out this chart . You may notice in the "Other Names" row that it calls chemical sunscreens “organic sunscreens.” This doesn’t mean that the ingredients are "organic" (ie. NOT the same as fruits/veggies), but rather the type of molecules that are used to absorb UV rays, called "organic molecules". We’ll spare you the chemistry lesson (if you’re interested check out Wikipedia ). Although this sounds very confusing, trust us: if you’re buying a sunscreen that’s labelled “Organic,” you’re more likely buying a physical sunscreen. We didn't make a typo - Physical sunscreens are packaged as "Organic" since the UV absorbing Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are organic. Chemical sunscreens could be labelled as "Organic" since the molecules were created in the field of Organic Chemistry. This is why it's important to look past the labels and know what Active Ingredients to look for!

So why would you choose one type of sunscreen over the other? Chemical sunscreen is the most common type of sunscreen on the market today. It is much more resistant to water or sweat than physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens often feel better on the skin and do not leave any residue on the skin after application. In general, chemical sunscreen is also less expensive.

Physical sunscreen is generally better if you have sensitive skin. Some people will have allergic reactions to the scents used in chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens protect you as soon as they are applied, whereas chemical sunscreens do not protect you until 20 minutes after application. Also if you’re looking for a natural or organic sunscreen, you’re looking for a physical sunscreen.

Cream vs. Spray Sunscreen

Spray sunscreens seem super convenient. You can apply sunscreen to hard to reach places, and you don’t have to worry about getting goopy lotion all over your hands. But, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether or not they are as effective as sunscreen creams.

A study was conducted to show whether or not spray sunscreens were as effective as cream sunscreens. While based on the SPF ratings, these sunscreens should be equally effective, they found that the average consumer only applies a quarter of the required amount of spray sunscreen, compared to half of the required amount for creams. Some of this is caused by the difficulty in determining where you’ve applied spray sunscreen.

Although it seems like no one is using enough, this means that a spray sunscreen with an SPF of 40 is really only giving you the protection of an SPF of 10, while the cream is giving you an SPF of 20. So if you’re using a spray sunscreen, apply it for four times as often than you think you need to.

If both are used correctly, cream and spray sunscreens should provide you with the same level of sun protection. Spray sunscreens are more convenient, while creams tend to be more hydrating than as they contain moisturizers and lotions. It’s also important to avoid inhaling spray sunscreens!

What about SPF?

SPF stands for the Sun Protection Factor of the sunscreen. This can range anywhere from 1 to over 60. SPF refers to the sunscreen’s ability to block UV rays from the sun. However, your UV protection does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 means that you can be in the sun 30 times longer before burning than without sunscreen.

Although this has a large affect at low SPF, increasing the SPF above 30 doesn’t result in much better protection. An SPF of 2 will absorb 50% of UV radiation, while an SPF of 15 absorbs 93%. However increasing the SPF from 30 to 60 only increases the UV radiation absorption from 97% to 98%. Although choosing a sunscreen with a higher SPF is generally better, it’s probably not worth if it you’re going to pay significantly more for it.

At the end of the day, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen! We hope we’ve given you an idea of what to look for, but what matters most is using a product that you like so that you keep using it!

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What's it like at Suncayr? The team tells all:

August 12th, 2015. By: The Team
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#lifeatsuncayr

Suncayr's grown from a cofounding team of 4 to a team of 13 in less than 5 months. It's been a pretty wild ride since becoming a full time company, and we've given our co-ops, volunteers, and founders uncensored access to tell you what it's like day to day around here!


Andrew (COO)

As with all startups, a day in the life of Suncayr is busy! I work mainly in the lab, performing experiments and coordinating our technology development with the team. This gives me the opportunity to do two things I love every day: planning and problem-solving! The amazing part about being involved in a startup is that I can contribute in other areas as well, like business strategy, accounting, and marketing. However, the absolute best part is working with awesome people every day, which means I have a ton of fun tackling the unique challenges of this business.

Darshan (co-op)

A day at Suncayr is filled with learning, frustrations and satisfaction. There are times when things do go annoyingly wrong. In fact I run into at least a couple problems on a daily basis. Occasionally these problems are as simple, like running out of cuvettes or pigs skin… but there are times when the results of my experiments vary wildly – and that’s not good! Then, I’ve noticed that a day’s work simply leads to more work rather than a definite answer. But at the end of the day, there is always something to do. Literally, there is always something to do. So, at the end of the work day, there is always a sense of satisfaction. I feel like I have done something or contributed meaningfully. And that, ultimately, is what makes Suncayr a great place to work!

Victoria (volunteer)

It’s my third day working at Suncayr. On my first day I came in soaked. Luckily I was given free swag to change into! Loving my new Velocity sweater and Suncayr gear.

Derek (Dir. Mfg/ Reg)

I usually work 8 until 8. Today, Sean from Nicoya Lifesciences said that “8 until 8” meant “8PM until 8PM”, since I’m in the Velocity Foundry space so often, I might as well be here 24 hours. Nobody forces me to be here, despite what rumors you may have heard about Rachel holding the chains that enslave Andrew, Chad, and I. I genuinely love to be here. I work as hard as I can, and every week I can look back and know that what I did will not only help Suncayr, but will one day be a huge help to people like myself who get sunburns. It’s pretty amazing to see the love that we get from our community. I never thought that from graduation until today we’d have 9 more awesome people helping us out. I hope to keep this group together as long as possible!

Peter (Dir. Sales)

A day in the life of the sales and distribution and logistics guy… Basically just meeting everyone, having to like everyone and occasionally being blessed with a free meal or beer. If you’re real lucky, it gets to be both and even more than one beer! It’s a whole lot of no sleep, always on your phone and remembering lots and lots of people. Oh, and a good phone plan is key. I love all of it, the excitement, unpredictability and meeting and forming new relationships daily. It’s nice to get to say your other office is at the beach. All in all, Suncayr is life.

Ahmad (co-op)

Every day at Suncayr has been a fun and entertaining experience. I’ve had the opportunity to experience two different sides of the company having initially worked on the website and now working at the lab. I’ve come to really enjoy the relaxed and open company culture. From working on the website I’ve learnt that pink is not a color that should be on a site that has an orange and white theme. Now, while working at the lab, I’ve learnt that pig skin can smell really bad. Overall, everyday life at Suncayr is a learning experience whether that means learning science, web design, or how to beat get whooped by Derek at Super Smash Bros.

Sahej (co-op)

A regular day at suncayr is full of expectations, failures and something new to learn. We face a new struggle everyday but Andrew and Chad make it seem like a piece of cake. I've been working on HPLC for the past month but somehow we don't get along very well. If it wasn't for their optimism, I would have given up on life a long time ago. I have had the chance to work on a variety of stuff and the best part about it is that we get the freedom to work on the projects we like. The most important thing I've learnt so far is that you have to explore every possible explanation (even the stupidest possibilities) to overcome an obstacle. Overall, it has been an amazing experience working at Suncayr as I have had the opportunity to widen my skill set and explore my second career option of being a butcher.

Kissan (volunteer)

Every day for me starts with the sudden realization that I have overslept after repeatedly snoozing my alarm. After recuperating from this daily shock I frantically rush to work. By day I am a quantum researcher, by night I volunteer at Suncayr. As a researcher/guinea pig for Suncayr, I get to conjure up and test colourful concoctions in the pursuit of achieving our amazing life-changing formula! After several fruitful conversations I have with the legends at Suncayr, I can say with certainty that my life is a little bit better. I declare the day a fantastic success and return to the temple of Kissan where I lay in bed wondering what great adventures Suncayr has in store for me the tomorrow. Sleep. Wake up (hopefully on time). Repeat!

Colin (volunteer)

I never know what to expect when I come into the lab at Suncayr, but I can say for sure that I always learn something new and I always have fun doing so. It's always a different and dynamic work atmosphere when all four of your bosses are only three years older than me! Sharing ideas and working within a group dynamic makes the synergy within Suncayr very optimal. So much work is hands on science and there's always so much practical knowledge to understand and implement. Me and Derek play video games, Andrew shows me rad metal music, we all make fun of Rachel and I love being Chad's personal assistant! Being a volunteer at Suncayr gives me the opportunity to be directly involved in creating the product as well. Lab meetings are always a blast and working together with the huge team that Suncayr has bought forth so many new and fun experiences! Suncayr is Funcayr is Puncayr!

Chad (CTO)

As CTO of Suncayr, there are two main roles I take care of. In the lab, my day to day is quite literally a new adventure every time I arrive. New experiments the lab team and I perform every day never really feels like work. We have fun and because of that we are always getting the job done and working late into the night. The team of co-ops and volunteers we have helping out really make a big difference. Working alongside them always seems to feel like just hanging out with friends. That’s really the best picture I can give to show what a day in the lab is like from my perspective. The other side of my position is the founder aspect. As one of the four founders of Suncayr, I am a part of the input on important company decisions. Since the other three founders are some of the best friends I have, running this business every day is very much a great time. Either way, no matter who I’m around and what I’m doing, every day at Suncayr is funcayr.

Rachel (CEO)

Every day is completely different from the last. I’ll bounce from an intense technical meeting to planning our long term marketing strategy. It’s completely crazy at all times, but it’s exhilarating. My journey with Suncayr has had me learning things that I’d never have dreamed of needing to know. It’s hard to keep up at times, but knowing that we are making something that could change the world is all the motivation that I need. Plus, I get to hang out with the coolest people ever. Beyond my awesome team, I love the startup community in KW. One word = Beer. Whoop whoop!

But at the end of it all, we're still a team, with an unstoppable willpower and questionable syncrhonized-bridge-dancing-skills. Take cayr for now!

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10 Tips to Treat that Nasty Sunburn and How to Avoid One

August 5th, 2015. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#helpwithsunburns

We’re halfway through the summer, and I’m sure many of you are starting to hate sunburns and are looking for a way to get rid of them quick. Try these tips the next time you spend a little too much time outside.


1. Take Aspirin or Ibuprofen

An anti-inflammatory medication will both help reduce inflammation (which is what causes the redness, swelling and blistering), with the added benefit of reducing pain!

2. Place a damp towel on the burn

This will both reduce your pain and help reduce skin inflammation.

3. Use Aloe Vera

Make sure to look for a lotion with the ingredient directly from the plant itself. Aloe vera is a proven anti-inflammatory. Go for lotions instead of gels or products containing alcohol as these may dry out the skin. If you own an aloe vera plant, test a patch of skin first before you rub it all over yourself, as some people are allergic to aloe.

4. Drink a lot of water

Sunburns draw fluid to the surface of the skin and away from the rest of the body. Drink extra water for a few days after the burn to avoid dehydration.

5. Know when to call a doctor

Call a doctor if the sunburn does not appear to be improving after 2 days or if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • chills
  • tiredness or fatigue
  • weakness
  • blistering

To avoid that sunburn altogether next time, try these tips.

6. Avoid peak sun hours

The sun is at its peak between 10 AM and 4 PM, so don’t be outside unless you need to be. Seek shade if you are outside during these hours.

7. Wear a hat

This will protect your face and scalp from sun damage. Go for a broad-brimmed hat, as this will protect you better than a baseball hat or visor. The top of your ears and back of your neck are common places to get a sunburn, and a hat can help to minimize the damage.

8. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Wear loose-fitting clothing, and cover your legs and arms as much as possible. You can also buy clothing specially designed to provide sun protection. Look for a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) if you’ll be spending a lot of time outside.

9. Wear Sunglasses

Ok I cheated here. This won’t help you avoid sunburns unless you are often burned around your eyes. But it is an extremely important step to take to prevent eye damage. Find a pair that looks great, but make sure that it provides 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

10. Use and Reapply Sunscreen!

I know this seems obvious, but it’s the easiest thing that you can do to avoid sun damage. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply at least every two hours. Stay tuned to hear about some of the best (and worst!) sunscreens on the market. And of course, keep following for updates on the launch of Suncayr so that you will always know when your sunscreen is protecting you!

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It’s Not About Lowering the Bar; It's About Opening the Funnel

September 26th, 2014. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#womenbootcamp2014

I recently attended the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp through Communitech as part of Google’s #40forward program. This was a 6 day woman only event, with three days at the end of August and three at the end of September.


I recently attended the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp through Communitech as part of Google’s #40forward program. This was a 6 day woman only event, with three days at the end of August and three at the end of September. When I first applied to the bootcamp, I was worried that Suncayr wouldn’t be accepted since we have 4 male co-founders. This turned out to be a pretty silly assumption, since the majority of ladies at the bootcamp had at least one male co-founder.

There were 25 women who attended the bootcamp, representing 22 companies . These companies were at all stages of development, from idea generation to beta testing. It was incredible to see how much each company evolved between the two sessions of the bootcamp.

Network, Network, Network!

My biggest reason for applying to attend the bootcamp was to establish more connections both within the KW startup ecosystem as well as meet ladies working on their companies in other areas. Throughout the bootcamp, we had some amazing speakers who I couldn’t wait to talk to after they finished. Not to mention how extraordinary the other participants were. I was fortunate enough to develop some great business contacts who can deliver a lot of value to Suncayr, from companies working in related spaces, to services to help us craft financial projections and reinforce our branding.

The entrants socializing from the Women in Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Throughout both sessions of the bootcamp, we were continually put on the spot to pitch our idea, with each speaker identifying different aspects of our presentation or message to work on. At first this was difficult. We didn’t know each other or each other’s businesses, so adding input to each other’s value propositions seemed like an impossible task. It wasn’t long though before we were all chatting like old friends and really digging into the nitty gritty details of our companies.

Rachel practicing our newly re-done 3 minute pitch before the big day

Supportive Ecosystem

We’ve often been asked whether we plan on staying in the KW region in the long run. Our biggest market is obviously not in Canada - we have winter for half the year! We’ve started to think about the US, Australia, and Brazil, just to name a few. It would definitely be a lot easier to maintain customer relationships in the same geographical location. Luckily, we’re building a straight to consumer product that can easily be distributed throughout the world. We’re here to stay KW.

That limo though!

Our biggest reason for staying is the community and this bootcamp really reinforced that. Being able to talk to a lot of the Communitech startup services managers and executives in residence helped us dramatically improve our business model and eliminate some of our major assumptions about our strategy moving forward.

School + Startup = A Lot of Work

The whole team at Suncayr is finishing their last year of engineering at the University of Waterloo. We were told in third year (when our program was the hardest) that fourth year would be insanely easier. Whoever told us that was wrong. But then again, they probably weren’t trying to run a startup company at the same time.

The August session was relatively straightforward. I was on my last co-operative education term and was able to take the three days off of work to attend the bootcamp. By the time the second session came around, we were in back in the full swing of school. To make matters worse, two of my co-founders and I had attended Hack the North the weekend before. I was operating on about 4 hours of sleep a night. I also had to miss most of the first day of the second session for a lab.

As difficult as it may be to manage our time, my co-founders and I have definitely been able to take advantage of the fact that we’re all still students. Professors seem to be much more receptive to meeting with us and we’ve been able to apply to several grants that are unavailable after graduation. And we couldn’t imagine spending our free time on anything else.

Build Something that Your Customers Want

Between the first half of the bootcamp in August and the second session in September, our homework included conducting 20-40 customer validation surveys. We’d already done an initial survey, but this gave us the chance to edit our survey and get answers to the questions that truly mattered. One of the biggest assumptions we have is the price that we can charge. Through this iteration of customer feedback, we were really able to identify how much we can charge for the Suncayr marker, giving us the information we need once we get into financial projections and our final business model.

Rachel in action! Delivering the winning pitch!

Win the Crowd and You Win the Judges

We were extremely excited to win the top prize of $15,000 at the final pitch competition of the bootcamp. We’ve always structured our pitch to win the crowd at any pitch competition we attend. Our customers are the average consumer who buys sunscreen, which means the majority of the crowd who are listening to us pitch. At the end of the day, if we don’t win a pitch competition, we’ve probably at least found a few new customers.

The motherlode!

But we pitch to the judges. As much as we craft our script and powerpoint slides to appeal to the whole crowd, when I go up on stage, the only people I’m looking at are the judges. In the end, I think this personal approach resonated with the judges, and it doesn’t hurt that they could eventually be our customers too!

About Rachel

Rachel is a co-founder and the CEO of Suncayr. Rachel is currently in her fourth year of nanotechnology engineering at the University of Waterloo. She co-founded a nanotech student team during her 2nd year of school and has conducted diverse research in materials science and the biological applications of nano through her co-op terms.

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Hack the North: How to Hack Science at a Hackathon

September 22nd, 2014. By: Rachel Pautler (rachel@suncayr.ca)
Link: http://www.suncayr.ca/blog/#hackthenorth2014

For those familiar with Suncayr’s technology, you may be wondering what on earth we were doing at a Hackathon. For us, it was all about networking. We found out that Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, was going to be there, so we knew that we had to be there.


Derek, Andrew, and I were at Hack the North two weeks ago. We recruited a classmate, Dave Badami as a fourth member of our team. For those familiar with Suncayr’s technology, you may be wondering what on earth we were doing at a Hackathon. For us, it was all about networking. We found out that Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, was going to be there, so we knew that we had to be there.

So now, we’ve applied, gotten accepted and it’s getting close to the event, and we find ourselves faced with a difficult question. What are we going to build at a Hackathon?

Step 1: Figure Out Something to Hack

We could have just hid in our lab all weekend, went to grab food when it was available, and not really made anything other than a small amount of tech development. But that didn’t seem like much fun with all the amazing hardware and mentorship that we had available to us that weekend. So we needed to come up with something else.

We started the same way you come up with a good business idea: find a problem. Our biggest problem right now is that we require some specialized lab equipment that we don’t have the funding to afford right now. We decided to make a syringe pump, which is a crucial piece of equipment that we need for the majority of our tech development, but costs upwards of $300 on the market.

The final build from Hack the North!

Step 2: Find the Right Place to Work

We started off working in the 3D print center and ended up making that a base camp for most of the weekend. This was insanely convenient since we could leave our stuff there with minimal risk of it being stolen. By Saturday afternoon we had moved downstairs closer to the engineering student machine shop.

See if you can spot Suncayr hiding behind the software hackers!

By random chance, CTV was filming the hackathon nearby. This lead to them interviewing me for a story that appeared that night. If we had stayed in the print center all weekend, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity. Moving into the busier areas of E5 was distracting at times, but also gave us access to the resources that we needed to finish our project.

Step 3: Make Connections

There is no way we would have been able to finish our syringe pump if not for the connections we made both before and during the hackathon. One of the most useful was that we know the guys at Lani pretty well. This meant that at 11:30 Friday night, when hacking began, we were first in line to get our items 3D printed. This put us in a great spot to get building the next morning.

Dave, Andrew, and Rachel discussing the next steps while Derek's machining.

The next day we spent a significant amount of time actually building the syringe pump. We took advantage of the engineering student machine shop in the first floor of E5 to build a significant portion of the device. Unfortunately, it closed at 5 PM on Saturday and we were far from done building! Luckily, while we were working in the shop we met some grad students working on a robot. Later on, when the shop closed and we were in dire need of some materials, we talked to them again and they gave us some scrap materials to finish our pump.

Step 4: Get Some Sleep!

It’s pretty common for hackers to go the entire weekend without sleeping, or sleeping very little. The energy in E5 was so intense and we were definitely caught up in it. Luckily for our sleep patterns though, we had some pretty lengthy down times. On Friday night, 3D printing took almost 6 hours. We made sure it was started before we left, but then figured we might as well get some decent sleep while we had the chance, so well all went home for a few hours.

This helped us out a lot the next day, as we could actually focus on what we were building and not risk a serious accident in the machine shop. We ended up finishing our pump by about 10 PM Saturday night, so went home for another good night’s sleep before the 10 AM submission deadline the next morning. I can’t even imagine how Monday morning would have felt if we had stayed up the whole weekend.

The 3D Printed parts, courtesy of our friends at Lani and the E5 shop.

Step 5: Know Your Judges

We came into this hackathon knowing that we were building something completely different from most of the other teams. We knew that there would be limited prizes available for a hardware hack. When we went to present to the judges on Sunday afternoon, we really just wanted to show them the passion we had for our company and show them how much of a impact our syringe pump was going to have on our future tech development.

We were fortunate enough to have Ted Livingston as one of our judges. Ted is the CEO of Kik and was the person responsible for the creation of the Velocity Venture Fund (now Velocity Fund Finals). Our product clicked with him right away and although we didn’t win anything at Hack the North, we made a connection that could be extremely beneficial to our company in the long run.

CTV totally didn't catch Rachel checking her notifications......

Step 6: Have Fun and Build Cool Stuff!

At the end of the day, a hackathon should be a really fun experience. You are surrounded by incredibly talented people who are working on insanely cool projects. The energy at Hack the North was amazing and we definitely had an unforgettable time. We’re looking forward to our next hackathon!

About Rachel

Rachel is a co-founder and the CEO of Suncayr. Rachel is currently in her fourth year of nanotechnology engineering at the University of Waterloo. She co-founded a nanotech student team during her 2nd year of school and has conducted diverse research in materials science and the biological applications of nano through her co-op terms.

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