• 2020/21
Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Palmer '09

Andrea Palmer ‘09

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Where is she now: Founder and CEO of Awake Labs

"My teachers at Meadowridge pushed and challenged me to reach my goals and gave me the confidence to realize that there were no limits to my potential"

An athlete and leader, Andrea Palmer was a member of the basketball and the inaugural water polo team, and co-captain of the soccer team while at Meadowridge. After graduating in 2009, Andrea moved to Vancouver to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in Mechatronics at the University of British Columbia. While at UBC, Andrea was an active member of the UBC Engineering Community serving as the President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society, the Captain of the UBC Thunderbots team and a member of Engineering Without Borders.

In her final year at UBC, Andrea was accepted into UBC’s highly competitive New Venture Design Course where she worked with a team of business and engineering students to develop a product and create a business plan. Looking to make a social impact with their project, Andrea and her team recognized that anxiety and stress were major challenges for children with autism, who often have trouble expressing their emotions. To address this, Andrea and her team developed a wearable device that monitors vital signs like heart rate to identify when users are feeling stressed and anxious, and notify their caregivers through an app so they are able to better support them.

After completing the course and graduating from UBC, Andrea recognized that there was a real need for their product and decided to go forward with it, founding Awake Labs. Andrea was admitted into several entrepreneurial accelerator programs including a 10-week residency at the Singularity University think tank in Silicon Valley and another program in Santiago, Chile. After taking part in ventureLab’s Tech Undivided program, Andrea decided to move her company to Toronto so she could take advantage of all of the city’s mentorship and investment opportunities.

In 2019, Awake Labs launched their product, an app that is available on smartwatches. The app can monitor a person’s heart rate and detect when the person is feeling stressed or has strong emotions based on the data. It then sends an alert to the person or their caregiver’s phone so they can adjust and check-in on the person. Andrea’s app is currently used by almost 35 community organizations in Ontario and New York and has over 300 individual users.

While developing her product, Andrea recognized the need for her product from not just children with autism but also adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are often overlooked by society. Through working with two funded and ethics approved research studies and completing in-house R&D with users of their app, Andrea and her team are helping to gather data and raise awareness regarding underrepresented groups with developmental disabilities like women and people of color.

Andrea’s work has been featured by numerous publications including Women of Influence and BC Business where she was named one of their 30 under 30 in 2017. In the future, Andrea hopes to expand her app’s audience to individual with cognitive disabilities like dementia and cognitive injuries like concussions based on her personal experience suffering from a brain injury that impacted her mental health and increased her anxiety.

Though she may have graduated over 10 years ago, Andrea can still remember her teachers at Meadowridge who helped inspire her to pursue a degree in engineering and that pushed her to succeed. “As I entered male dominated industries like engineering and entrepreneurship, I never felt like I didn’t belong because Meadowridge helped me realize that anything is possible” Andrea says.

  • 20-21
  • Alumni