By Diana Hall
Associate News Editor
The Digital Media Zone (DMZ) at Ryerson University was abuzz with nervous energy as students, staff, faculty and members of the media celebrated the arrival of royalty Tuesday morning.
His Royal Highness Prince Charles was hosted by premier Dalton McGuinty and Ryerson president Sheldon Levy as he began his tour of the school’s digital innovation hub atop Yonge-Dundas Square.
The visit gave Ryerson students a chance to both showcase their work to a member of the royal family, and draw attention to the DMZ’s collaborative, nurturing, and resource-rich business environment.
“You know when you come in here that there’s something very special by the energy in the room,” Levy said about the opportunity to call attention to DMZ initiatives. “…There’s very few places better to see where the future lies than right where we’re standing today.”
Prince Charles made his way through a maze of computer screens, project models and journalists to observe four student-driven entrepreneurial projects fostered by the DMZ since its April 2010 start-up: Bionik Labs (a medical engineering corporation with a focus on rehabilitation devices), 500px (a photography sharing website for professionals), Greengage (promotes environmental sustainability through interactive business apps) and Flybits (context-aware computing technology). These groups of young entrepreneurs were showcased in separate presentations to His Royal Highness, who peppered the students with quiet and eager questions about each product.
But Flybits CEO and DMZ research director Dr. Hossein Rahnama asserts that the success of the DMZ and its royal, red-carpet recognition weighs on more than just turning a good idea into a marketable product.
“I wanted to highlight that this is all happening because of our students, and if you have the right programs to support the students, I think they can do wonders,” Rahnama said.
Prince Charles seemed to agree: he sent out a congratulatory tweet at the final station during the DMZ tour.
The DMZ was the third stop on the Ontario leg of the royal tour. The tour commemorates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – a celebration of 60 years service.