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University volunteers organize science challenge for junior high students

Let's Talk Science Challenge part of student-led outreach program to spark kids' interest in STEM studies
May 31, 2016
University of Calgary volunteers helped organize a Let’s Talk Science Challenge event for Calgary junior high school students on May 14. Photos by Nedaa Osama, Let's Talk Science

University of Calgary student volunteers helped organize a Let’s Talk Science Challenge event for Calgary junior high school students on May 14. Photos by Nedaa Osama, Let's Talk Science

Team Neutral from Thomas B. Riley Public School in Calgary were the winners of the 2016 Let’s Talk Science Challenge.

Team Neutral from Thomas B. Riley Public School in Calgary were the winners of the 2016 Let’s Talk Science Challenge. 

Ashley Causton, a senior instructor of organic chemistry in the Faculty of Science, spoke to students about the importance of STEM knowledge in today's society.

Ashley Causton, senior instructor of organic chemistry in the Faculty of Science, spoke to students about the importance of STEM knowledge in today's society. 

Let's Talk Science is a national charitable outreach organization that engages post-secondary student volunteers at universities and colleges across Canada to turn kids on to science. Let's Talk Science at the University of Calgary offers high-quality workshops for school students and the public in Calgary, surrounding communities and rural or aboriginal communities. 

On May 14, close to 200 students in grades 6 to 8 participated in one of the largest science competitions in Calgary, the Let’s Talk Science Challenge. This year, the Challenge  took place in the Health Sciences Centre at the University of Calgary's Foothills Campus. More than 35 university student volunteers and 11 industrial volunteers from CH2M and Chevron helped to organize and run the event.

The competition provides students the opportunity to take part in a full day of hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. Students from public, private, and Catholic schools in and around Calgary competed in the Challenge in groups of two to four. 

The University of Calgary’s Let’s Talk Science Outreach Program is one of the 40 organizations on campuses across Canada that deliver STEM-related activities to the community.

Bouncy balls, bubbles and Angry Birds

In the morning portion of the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, students participated in a science quiz show hosted by William Huddleston, an instructor in the Faculty of Science. All students received a study handbook in January that had information about topics relating to environmental science, physics, biology, chemistry and space science. The questions asked in the quiz show were all based on the content in the handbook.

During the lunch hour, the students participated in a wide range of lunch activities from making bouncy balls and dry ice bubbles to playing Angry Birds. In addition, they had the opportunity to visit various booths that the Calgary Public Library and Cybermentors brought in.

In the afternoon portion of the Let’s Talk Science Challenge, students were given the task to build a simple machine using a few everyday materials. This task required out-of-the-box thinking, teamwork, and creativity.

The winning team of this year’s Let’s Talk Science Challenge was Team Neutral from the Thomas B. Riley School. 

Ashley Causton, senior instructor in organic chemistry, and students of Mark Ungrin, assistant professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,  gave keynote speeches at the event focusing on the importance of STEM knowledge in society. 

Next event features Amazing Race style challenges

The Let’s Talk Science at the University of Calgary is now planning for the Science, Engineering and Technology Challenge (SETC) which will take place on June 11, 2016 on main campus. The event will include a full-day of Amazing Race-style challenges designed for students in grades 10 to 12. SETC will give high school students the opportunity to explore the University of Calgary campus and test their knowledge of major STEM fields.

The Let’s Talk Science Challenge is supported by sponsors such as 3M, Dow Canada, 3M Canada, CH2M Hill, Honda Canada, Takeda Canada, Alberta Health Services, and the University of Calgary.

Article authors Karen Lam and Qahir Haji are special events co-ordinators for the Let's Talk Science and SciEngTech Challenge. For more information on Let's Talk Science and volunteer opportunities, e-mail lts@ucalgary.ca or visit the Let's Talk Science website. 

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