This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Experience at Science Expo 2014 - Blueprint

Originally Published: May 21, 2014
By: Manasa Kaniselvan

As a delegate of Science Expo’s 2013 conference and one of their ambassadors since then, I had high hopes for this year’s conference, and they exceeded my expectations. Science Expo’s fifth annual conference was definitely something to not be missed. It was one of my best experiences of the year.

If there’s one thing Science Expo does right, it’s taking a bunch of STEM nerds and making us like talking to each other. Their icebreaker was a design challenge in itself, which woke our brains up on a Saturday morning and made us come up with creative things to do with clips and toothpaste. Frankly, the best part was listening to the presenters present their models, all of which were expertly marketed. My favorite line would have to be the ‘Colgate Mobile’, a mobile toothpaste transporter created by group-two.

Another notable part of the conference was the workshops. This year’s conference showcased a variety of brief, thirty-minute workshops where we delegates could learn new things, fiddle with software, or network with each other. As an attendee of the Maplesoft and DNA-Extraction workshops, I approve of this new system over last year’s, and I think it’s an interesting improvement. My only regret is that I didn’t get to attend them all!

We were then invited to eat lunch, and you can always expect Science Expo to provide great conference food. Among a selection of sandwiches, fries, cake, and a second course of pizza, there’s more than enough to praise. I was at the CYSJ table handing out journal copies, and it was refreshing to see how many delegates took an interest in the journal. Of course, the other opportunity tables were just as crowded, and most were the programs I remember from last year. I had attended a few of them, so that was definitely nostalgic.
A second design challenge followed lunchtime, and this one was a creative challenge where we had to design animal-observation devices to watch them in their natural habitats. This one was a little strange but we grew to like it and it was pretty fun to hastily wrap together a cage to shield a camera from a skunk. Once again, the highlight was watching people present their devices (including live-action simulation with one disguised as an animal!).

We had our second keynote speaker at this point, who inspired us with his STEM involvement story. Then it was time to snack once again, which also provided a lot of valuable networking time. And I think the networking is a valuable part of the conference, because the people I met from last years were some of the coolest students ever, and a few of them even went on to participate in competitions with me. Science Expo 2014 was just as amazing as I’d expected; I got to the centre tired and half-asleep and left feeling refreshed and inspired, so it was definitely a conference experience to be remembered.

(And can I say ‘Timbit Tower’?  That thing was majestic!)

My STEM Journey

Originally Published: May 21, 2014
By: Fayza Sharif

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I was quite young at the time, and all I ever thought about was going to school and playing with friends. Things like the future and having a career were not really part of my vocabulary, and I focused more on finding things that I actually liked. From swimming lessons to leisurely biking, from learning sign language to reading library books, I delved into a range of fields in the hopes of forming a genuine interest in one of these hobbies. My love for math, though, seemed to be my most distinguishing highlight from my childhood. I would spend many weekend evenings with my parents and siblings doing multiplication drills and practicing long division. It sort of became our family bonding time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

These arithmetic skills became handy when I was able to act as a tutor for other classmates. As I learned more about different topics in mathematics, I became more interested in it and wished to further explore its many branches.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

By this time, I had moved on to middle school. It was a new environment with new people and new classes. Everything around me was different, but one thing hadn’t changed--my attachment to math. With more concepts being learnt, I also looked forward to science classes. My previous courses never really focused on anything besides math and English, resulting in other subjects becoming secondary. I felt wonder when I first learned about the makings of the cell--the ribosomes, the nucleus, the mitochondrion--never before had I thought of something so small as being so complex. It was here that science became another one of my interests, and it here that I realized the number of perplexing questions that still eluded the greatest of minds.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

At this point, I entered high school. I was getting older and that meant I needed to seriously think about what I wanted to do with my life. As much as academics meant to me in terms of math and science, it wasn’t enough to grow as a person. I looked to volunteer activities instead. Working at my local hospital, promoting volunteer opportunities around my region, reading to children with special needs, I realized that I enjoyed giving back to the community and making a difference in someone’s life. I eventually looked to medicine since it was a perfect way to blend humanitarian causes with science. I joined extracurricular activities that pertained to medicine such as participating in mini-medical school and going to medical summer camps. As my high school journey comes to an end, I still wonder about what I want to actually do in the future, but the experiences that came along these four years made me look to medicine as a possible career path.