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Hands-on experience for young scientists

COLD LAKE -  Local youth put their problem-solving and teamwork to the test.

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Cold Lake and District FCSS and the the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Lakeland branch challenged young scientists to come up with solutions to three challenges as part of their annual Science Olympics program held at the Cold Lake Energy Centre.

“It’s our chance to introduce the kids to the idea of the profession of engineering and geoscience,” explained Alyssa Gladish, engineer in training and coordinator of the event for APEGA. “When you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, they say something they know, like a teacher, or doctor, or… electrician. Rarely do you ever hear a student say ‘I want to be an engineer,’ unless they happen to know an engineer.”

Leanne Draper, FCSS volunteer services coordinator, added, “It’s a great day of engineering fun, exposing kids to the profession of engineers, and how engineering is part of our everyday life. They get to meet real-life engineers and interact with them.”

This is the third year the two organizations have partnered to organize the Science Olympics.

The event had participants from across the region split up into groups of three or more to work together on brainstorming solutions to three mystery challenges, including building a bridge that they could get 20 marbles across, creating a paper airplane, and transporting ping pongs underwater using a vessel they crafted together.

When attendee Natalie Erling, 11, heard about the Science Olympics from her parents, she knew it was right up her alley.

“My dad and mom thought it would be really cool to go, and I really like doing science-related activities,” she noted, adding the highlight of the day for her was the submarine challenge.

“We took a cup to put (ping pong balls) in, then we covered the top with two plastic gloves and then we put an elastic around it. We maneuvered it through the cave by pushing it down with the sticks,” she explained.

Erling encouraged others to try the Science Olympics in the future because “you can make new friends and have lots of fun.”

Both Draper and Gladish wanted the children to take home more than just a new set of skills, but also a positive outlook about the field.

“I hope they had a good time, and that we also put a little bug in their ear that says ‘engineers - we’re out there doing cool stuff’ and maybe they’ll consider streaming into the sciences or engineering,” Gladish exclaimed.

She continued, “We really wanted them to take away that engineering is this cool problem-solving thing where you get to come up with a solution to a problem, and sometimes you have to work through different ways to solve a problem.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle