Durham College alumnus wins Ontario Premier’s Award

Durham College (DC) alumnus Brent Lessard has received provincial recognition for the leadership role he is playing in revolutionizing the future of transportation. The 2014 graduate of DC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program was announced as the recipient of a Premier’s Award for recent graduates on November 27 at the annual gala that celebrates outstanding graduates from across the Ontario college system.

“I am incredibly honoured to receive the Premier’s Award,” said Brent. “I’ve been able to apply so much of what I learned at DC, including being exposed to diverse thinking during my studies, which has been a source of inspiration in my work. I also continue to draw on the importance of fostering a sense of community, which the college certainly did. It’s something that I have carried with me as I helped create the rLoop concept.”

rLoop, a non-profit, crowd-funded and sourced, online think tank and talent resource, was founded in 2014, a year after Brent graduated, and is focused on the development of a conceptual, high-speed transportation system called Hyperloop. Initially proposed by Elon Musk, chief executive officer at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the system involves the propelling of passenger or cargo-boarded pods in a low-pressure tube using sustainable and cost-efficient energy, in order to transport people from one place to another at the speed of sound.

Within the framework of rLoop’s commitment to innovation, Brent successfully connects and integrates the expertise of his colleagues, who live in various countries and time zones, speak different languages and embrace differing and unique cultures, to lead the development of a technology prototype with the potential to change the way we live and conduct business in Ontario, Canada and around the world.

His dedication has enabled him to propel the rLoop team, which is now comprised of 1,100 members from more than 50 countries, to greatness several times in the last three years.

In January 2016, he proudly guided his colleagues at the first SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition where they were awarded the Best Non-Student Hyperloop Design Award and earned a spot to compete as one of 30 teams at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which took place in January 2017, in California. There, under Lessard’s direction, rLoop had the opportunity to test its Hyperloop prototype on the mile-long SpaceX track before receiving the SpaceX Hyperloop Innovation Award.

Lessard and his team were asked to return to the Hyperloop Pod Competition II in August 2017, where they tested the vehicle in the vacuum of the Hyperloop tube and achieved several Hyperloop firsts, including the first Hyperloop Pod demonstrating static levitation in a vacuum and the first Hyperloop Pod with pressure vessel tested at vacuum, capable of sustaining human life.

“Brent is a cutting-edge thinker who embodies the qualities that make a college education great – collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship and learning through doing,” said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “As he and the rLoop team work toward revolutionizing the way we travel, DC’s students, employees and more than 82,000 alumni are incredibly proud he is representing the college and Canada on the international stage.”

Brent was one of 118 college graduates nominated for this year’s awards, including one other from DC, and is the sixth alumni from the college to win.

Each year the Premier’s Awards are presented to acknowledge the social and economic contributions that college graduates make to the province and throughout the world. Chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario’s 24 colleges, the award recipients have demonstrated outstanding career success related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their community.

For more information about the DC alumni community please visit www.durhamcollege.ca/alumni.