May 15, 2013 5:30 AM
Diary of a Canada-Wide Delegate – Day 4
Wow! Today was a busy day. I hardly recognized our finalists. When we met to go for breakfast, they were so dressed up. The guys were in their best suits and ties, the young women were all in their most business formal attire. It was time for the judges.
Delegates are not allowed anywhere near the exhibition hall on the Judging Day. Instead, a series of workshops was available for us in the morning. I went to hear Dominic Tremblay talk about the newly revised and improved SMARTS program
. He described it as “the first social network for young scientists, created by young scientists”. Actually, he said it is an online community, not a social network. Apparently, social networks get blocked by school administrators, online communities do not. I came out of the session very excited about this opportunity for teachers. I could write a lot more now. In fact, I have over 5 pages of written notes taken during Dominic’s session, but I think that I will try it out first and then do a much more detailed blog telling you what I learn.
During the second half of the morning, we had a Zone meeting. Alberta and B.C. make up the Western Zone. This meeting was an opportunity to give feedback about how things are going so far, and to learn the details about transportation for the big field trip coming up tomorrow.
The organizers were clever enough to make sure that the lunch today was the least messy possible alternative. There were lots of rolls and sandwiches, the type of foods that could be eaten while all dressed up in best clothes. One delegate told me of the time that spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce was served on a judging day a few years ago. Many of those students went back to be judged with red blotches all over their clothing. That did not happen today.
Right after lunch, the delegates attended a special meeting of Youth Science Canada. The very talented people who make up the board was introduced. Three of the existing board were retiring or terms were up. That meant three new members to be elected. Each region is allowed one vote. The three of us from Calgary came to a quick consensus after the speeches, marked our ballot and sent it to the front. Once the results were declared, the special meeting was over.
Next year’s fair will be held in Winsor Ontario, and their regional hosted a Social so that all delegates could get a feeling of what to expect if they went to the Canada-Wide in 2014. It seemed we had barely finished the snacking there when it was supper time. Considering how large the group is, the food has been very good. Tonight as a treat for the finalists after going the stress of judging, they actually had carving stations with large baked hams being sliced to order. I think one could gain weight if they keep feeding us like this.
The finalists and delegates had an opportunity to wind down in the lounge with games and music, or to go to one of 10 movies being shown in some of the lecture theatres. The Alberta delegates got together to talk about the formation of Youth Science Alberta, a foundation which will look at ways to help and coordinate funding for Alberta regionals.
Tomorrow will be another big day. The delegates were glad that the finalists were ready to hit the hay early. Wake-up tomorrow for the field trips is at least an hour earlier than it has been so far. I made sure to have everything ready for the trip tomorrow before lights out for myself.
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May 19, 2013 10:00 AM
Diary of a Canada-Wide Delegate – The Final Day
Today was the last day full day of the 2013 Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF). And a very busy day it was. After breakfast, the finalists were once again at their projects for the last school tours and public viewing. The top of the fair Platinum award winners had been moved overnight to a prime location to accommodate the anticipated crush of viewers. Adam Noble, top of the fair, certainly draws a crowd. A tab was placed on the winning projects so that one could tell at a glance which projects received medals.
I spent time walking around the projects and looking at ones that caught my eye. During the latter half of the morning the delegates from Alberta got together at the tables above the exhibit hall and continued the networking process required to establish a strong provincial organization. One major goal of Youth Science Alberta will be to assist Alberta students in getting to the CWSF. Larger fairs probably don’t need the financial help, but for several of the smaller regionals in the province, the Genome Alberta support is the only cash funding that allows them to help bring their kids to the fair. Hopefully this will change into the future.
After a quick lunch it was take down time. With the new backboards, the process this year was sort of a reverse of the safety check. The students who properly followed procedures and used the designated tape were able to peel it off quickly leaving a clean backboard. Then they got an official to check and sign them off. With all takedown sheets in hand, each delegate was able to have their region checked off by their zone rep and received the money for taking the students for a night out on the town.
The city of Lethbridge has much to offer. Our group started off at the Galt Museum
where we got a personalized tour from the curator, Wendy Aitkens. She began by explaining the central history of
Lethbridge, pointing out the sights we could see through the windows of this marvelous facility. Then Wendy took us through the highlights of Discovery Hall. After seeing the permanent exhibits, we made our way to the travelling exhibit ‘Canadian Science and Engineering – Hall of Fame
’. I found the panel on Raymond Lemieux
. He was my uncle’s brother and I knew from the time I was a child that he was a significant Canadian scientist. We then worked our way down the hall to see some of the artifacts of Senator Joyce Fairbairn, the first woman to be named leader of the Government in the Senate. The exhibits that pay tribute to her are housed in what was once the men’s dorm at the old Galt Hospital which opened in 1891.
After the obligatory trip through the gift shop we made our way out of the building for a few pictures near the views from the grounds. Next, we bused the eight blocks to Galt Gardens, a park where we were able to take in the final portion of a concert. Any interested finalist or delegate could learn to line dance from some leaders at the concert. My own finalists were not keen so we went over to Park Place shopping mall where we spent a little time and money.
We had already made a booking for dinner at the nearby Boston Pizza. We joined two other Alberta regionals for dinner. All of our finalists submitted their menu choices the day before, and when we stepped into the restaurant we were escorted to our reserved section. The food started coming almost immediately. It took less than an hour for 30 hungry people to be served and out. Some of the other regional groups went to possibly higher-end restaurants and spent the whole evening waiting for food. We have learned through experience to choose a known franchise for our young students as we know that they will all find a food choice that they can eat. All happy, no complaints.
After supper, we were back at the university campus for a carnival night housed at the finalists and delegate lounge. All our finalists were there. None stayed back in the room to study, prepare or even watch videos. This was the final event of the fair.
It seemed that 11:30 p.m. came early, and for some it was. The regionals from eastern and central Canada either stayed up, or woke up in time to catch a bus for Calgary at 2:30 a.m. They had early flights out of Calgary to the east. Another set of buses left at 4:00 a.m. Chris Roedler and his committee did not get any sleep, but they sure looked relieved when they boarded us on to our bus back to Calgary at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. This was the last bus out of Lethbridge. For the organizers, it was finally over. For us, we have a bus ride back to Calgary to meet parents at the airport and then for us too, it will be really all over for another year.
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May 17, 2013 6:30 AM
Diary of a Canada-Wide Delegate – Day 6
Time this morning seemed to fly. After breakfast, the finalists were at their projects by 9:00 a.m. for public viewing and school tours. The University of Lethbridge had again filled the hallways with displays and demos for the close to 2500 students who would be touring the Canada-Wide today. When the yellow buses arrived, there was enough electricity in the air to light the city as the elementary aged students started bouncing off the buses and into the exhibition.
I overheard one of my students talking to a VIP from one of the big sponsors and realized immediately that she is the one I would ask to represent us for the CBC interview
coming up at noon.
The delegates spent the morning either viewing the displays or attending professional development-like forums to learn about various aspects of science fairs. I attended one on how to improve your local regional fair and realized how lucky I am to be associated with Calgary Youth, a regional with more than 50 years’ experience putting on science fairs for students. Just before lunch, all the delegates and finalists from Alberta grouped up in their dark citron team jackets for a picture on the knoll overlooking the Old Man river valley under the stylized U of L sculpture.
At 2:00 p.m. precisely, the buses were loaded and departing for the Enmax Centre. Brilliantly, the organizers had the delegations sitting at the same numbered table assigned for the opening ceremonies. They had however rearranged the placement of the numbers so that we were sitting in an entirely new place. Then the lights went down, the music went a little louder and a deep voice announced in French and English that the awards would start in 2 minutes.
As a delegate, you want your team to do well, and provincial rivalries naturally exist, but in the end you find yourself cheering for all of these young scientists being honoured for their curiosity and perseverance to get to this level. By the end of the event, more than half of the Calgary Youth finalists received a medal. All four of the Alberta finalists who had previously won a Genome Alberta award crossed the stage to receive a medal. Best of fair goes to Adam Noble from Peterborough, Ontario. The experienced finalists from my region indicated they were not surprised as they said that Adam’s project was a quantum better than anyone else. I must make sure to take a look again at public viewing on Friday.
After the awards ceremony, we cleared out of the Enmax centre briefly so that the tables could be set for the banquet. As the banquet drew to a close, the stage was filled for a final time with the volunteers from all the committees:
- National Judging Committee
- National Science Fair Committee
- Board of Directors of the National Science Fair
- Ambassadors for the Finalists
- Youth Science host team.
Youth Science Canada has only 3 paid employees. They were also introduced. It was impressive to see the large group of people on the stage that work pretty much the entire year to make sure this is a major event for our young scientists. We gave them a standing ovation.
We bused back to the University campus in record time where the finalists quickly changed from their best dress clothes to their casual attire and the finalists lounge was a rocking good time for the rest of the night – ending with the #CWSF version of the Harlem Shake.
I had no trouble falling asleep after doing the final room check to see that all my finalists were safely back in their rooms for the night.
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May 16, 2013 6:30 AM
Diary of a Canada-Wide Delegate – Day 5
When I first saw the planned tours for the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Lethbridge, I didn’t know how I was going to make my choice. I was thrilled when I found out that I did not have to make a choice because the Lethbridge host committee set up the tours so that every participant visited every venue. I don’t know the entire history of Canada-Wide tours, but I do know that this is the first time I have been able to visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites on the same tour day.
We had been previously assigned bus numbers. On tour day, we went straight from breakfast to the bus staging area in a parking lot near the exhibit hall. As we passed by numbered tables, our box lunches were set out and ready to be picked up. Then on to the bus.
The buses departed Lethbridge at 8:15 a.m. and our cycle took us through Cardston to Waterton where we arrived by 10:15 a.m. The park is not normally opened this early in the year, but they made an exception for the Canada-Wide tour day. The woman in the Welch’s Chocolate Shop
was smiling from ear to ear when she saw 5 bus loads of kid’s coming through her door. Yes, that was the first stop every one of them made. Once stocked up on ice cream, candies and fudge, we wandered around the town and taking in the sites. I especially like seeing the awesome power of Cameron Falls. I have not seen it during spring run-off before. We were back on the bus by 12:15.
Next stop for us was the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump
. We were met at the door by our guide Edwin. He is a great story teller and had the ability to engage the larger group of us assigned to him, or to pull aside someone with a very specific question. Just as we were about to leave, Edwin pulled me aside to show me some details of the buffalo skeleton. An hour and a half was only time to see the major highlights, and having a guide to point them out really made a big difference for so many of us. A person probably needs more than a day to see all the exhibits on display.
Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites done and we still had a third stop to make – The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre
. They call it an interactive experience. That is an excellent description. As soon as we were on the grounds at the centre, there were guides helping excited finalists and delegates get close-up to observe and even gently touch several baby birds of prey. I was fascinated with the month old baby Great Horned Owl. It was abandoned by its parents at a construction site near its home. The guide told me that these little guys have such long legs to jump among the branches developing their strength and balance in preparation for their first flight which takes place by about two months of age.
We were all very tired by the time the tours were over. Super lasted until almost 8:00 p.m. as some of the buses got back quite late from their tours. Just before doing the final room checks for the night, I discovered that Mike had posted the interviews he had done
on Sunday. When I checked with Atulya, I made sure he knew his interview was up. I sent an email to the delegates so that they could pass that information on to the other two finalists.
I think everyone will still be a little tired in the morning. This was a long day. Tomorrow - the Awards.
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May 15, 2013 7:00 PM
More of the best and brightest at the Canada Wide Science Fair
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Approximately 1,100 students, chaperones, judges, sponsors and dignitaries are in Lethbridge this week for the Canada Wide Science Fair. There is also a strong contigent of volunteers from the Lethbridge area helping to keep the event running smoothly.
The wrap up to the Science Fair season pull in the top 400 science projects by students from grades seven through 12 which were selected from more than 100 regional competitions held across Canada.
Genome Alberta's Gerry Ward is a regular fixture at Alberta Science Fair and has been part of the National event in the past. He is in Lethbridge and has been posting regularly
on our blog pages.
I went to Lethbridge and talked to some of the Alberta students about their entries.
First is Atulya Madhavan
and his project Efficacy of Inhibitors in Cataract Suppression
I also talked with Abdullah Farooq
who is home schooled and made it to the finals with his project A BAC Platform for Engineering Oncolytic Reovirus
And finally here is part of an interview with Aspen Lillywhite
and I'll apologize in advance for it being only part of the interview. Somehow the last part was cut when it was recording and there wasn't the opportunity to go back and re-do the interview. Sorry Aspen, but here is the short conversation on Freshwater Flow Effects on Cleanup og\f Potential Oil Spills
Apart from the science fair project Lethbridge is also featuring "Drawing the Canada-Wide Science Fair". This is a collective of fifteen artists who have come together to interpret the national science fair through visual language. By drawing on-site during the Canada-Wide Science Fair, the artists will create and immediately broadcast drawings of selected projects on display. Take a look at some of the work
from the initiative.
We'll post information about the winners and their projects as soon as it is available later on Thursday the 17th
so check back soon.
May 14, 2013 7:15 AM
Diary of a Canada-Wide Delegate – Day 3
Our team met this morning in the hallway of the dorm before heading down the hill to the dining hall for breakfast. When I got there, I was a little apprehensive when I discovered that all the coffee was gone. I settled for a cup of decaf. The servers soon brought out a couple of large urns of the real stuff and when I got my refill, I was ready for the day. It must be quite the challenge to feed such a large group of people who are all on the same time schedule.
At 9:00 a.m. all the finalists were expected in the exhibit hall as the school tour groups were about to begin. Soon, students from every grade level were excitedly roaming the halls of the University of Lethbridge taking in the atmosphere of a Canada-Wide science fair. By hosting this event, the University of Lethbridge was also able to showcase their campus and all the programs and activities that are available here.
Delegates used this time block for their once a year formal meeting. When asked to raise your hand if this was your first time as a delegate, nearly two thirds of the hands went up. We were introduced to the executive and the structure of the organization was explained. It takes a lot of work and organization to bring together students representing every part of the country. For me, this event always reminds me of just how big Canada really is. Additionally, we learned about the arrangements and requirements for the rest of the week.
I had lunch with a friend of mine who has worked at the University of Lethbridge for more than 30 years. Since he is judging at this year’s fair, we did not speak about any specific projects or finalists, but he did mention how amazed he is by the quality of research shown in the 5 page reports that he has been reading. After we said our good-byes, I headed to the meeting area for what is called ‘Discovery Day’. These were a series of talks and lectures on a very wide variety of science research areas from cell biology to digital music. When we registered by computer a few weeks ago, we made choices from a long list of these topics. On our name tags there were a couple of numbers printed out under the word ‘discovery’. That told us which group to join up with. It was all organised and run with excellent efficiency. My first session had a small group of finalists learning how to make measurements of very small specimens using sophisticated microscopes. Unfortunately I was called away to do the final set-up and safety check for one of my finalist who had been unable to arrive with the team on Saturday.
As the entire group of finalists gathered in the dining hall for supper, you could feel a peculiar vibration in the room. Could it be that judging day is tomorrow? As soon as dinner was over, most finalists headed back to their room for final preparations and going over their ‘seven, four, one’. They need to have a seven minute presentation for the first round of judges, a four minute presentation for the second round of judges and a one minuter for anyone else who wants a quick summery of what they did. By 7:30 p.m. the delegate and finalist lounge was almost empty. You could actually talk and listen in that room. And talk we did! Most of the delegates from Alberta hovered around a table swapping stories with a members of the host team. The major topic of discussion was about how to create a strong and useful provincial organisation similar to what we see in other provinces like B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Each province has its own unique structure and funding model, but with the same goal – get students to the Canada-Wide fair. We want to make sure that Alberta students have the same science fair support.
There was no noise in the halls even before lights-out. I guess all the finalists are getting a good night’s sleep before judging day.
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