ST. PAUL – For the first time in St. Paul, an area non-profit is bringing forward an inter-district and inter-disciplinary science fair.
The St. Paul & District STEAM Society (SPDSS), a non-profit focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), is working alongside St. Paul Education and Conseil Scolaire Centre-Est to organize the science fair.
Keith Gamblin, assistant superintendent of St. Paul Education, said on Dec. 16 that the science fair is a “great opportunity” for students to further explore science and STEAM.
"We're always looking for ways to provide new opportunities for our students to learn,” said Gamblin.
“Especially when it comes to science and technology.”
Khurram Abbasi, president of SPDSS explained the importance of science fairs, stating that science fairs “develop critical thinking, problem solving, and communication,” in youth.
Students from “all schools and homeschooling are invited to participate,” and showcase their skills in problem solving, said Abbasi.
Participating students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 will have an opportunity to compete at the regional science fair. “If they succeed from there, they will be able to compete at the national level,” said Abbasi.
Students who compete at a national-level science fair also get the opportunity to be noticed by higher learning institutions like universities, “and it helps in their admission as well as their career goals,” according to Abbasi. “The best projects will definitely be awarded locally as well.”
Participating students can do a variety of science-related projects, according to Abbasi.
For example, students can work on agriculture, fisheries and food projects that help ensure “food security, sustainability, or competitiveness in agriculture, fishers, or food production.”
Students can also work on “curiosity and ingenuity” projects that would help improve understanding, or “address a problem” in a STEAM area “not covered by other challenges,” he said.
In addition, Abbasi says students can also work on “disease and illness” projects that helps enhance diagnosis, treatment, understanding of disease “or the management of physical or mental illness.”
Other examples given by Abbasi that students can work on include energy, environment and climate change, health and wellness, and natural resources projects.
SPDSSS will also be working with Portage College for the upcoming science fair.
Edna Gervais, community liaison and program support at Portage College, says the college “is a proud supporter” of the 2023 St. Paul Interdisciplinary Science Fair, through the “use of our space, promotion, supplies and materials, and other needs as they arise.”
“Portage College continues to support science, computer science, within our region, and we are looking forward to supporting opportunities to host the Innovation Lab at Portage College,” says Gervais.
According to Abbasi, one of SPDSS’ mission has been to create an innovation lab to provide an opportunity for the youth in the region to “practice and perfect” their science skills. And “It might not be a far-fetched dream.”
To participate, in the upcoming science fair, individuals can register at: spdss.ca/spdsf2023/ with the registration deadline set for Dec. 31.
The judging day for the science fair for elementary students will be around the second week of March, and in February for secondary students, according to Abbasi.
Minecraft for Education
SPDSS has recently concluded its “Minecraft for Education” program, aimed at challenging participating youth to build a sustainable St. Paul in Minecraft, according to Abbasi. The program began on Oct. 21 and the last session concluded on Dec. 2.
“The kids built smart homes, sustainable power sources, sustainable farms, recycling centre and monuments to ornament our virtual St. Paul,” said Abbasi. “Finally, they will have an opportunity to present their ideas.”
Abbasi said a “Minecraft Gala” will be held sometime in January at Portage College to allow participating students a space to present their ideas to members of the community.
Portage College also worked with SPDSS to ensure the program’s success.
According to Gervais, students were able to use the college’s computer lab for the Minecraft program. While initially, the program was supposed to be only one session, Gervais says there was such “great response” that more sessions will be held.
“The Minecraft for Education sessions at our St. Paul campus have been well-received, and we are proud to support these opportunities for learners,” says Gervais.
Around 40 children were involved with their parents, according to Gervais, “and it was really exciting to see that.
Gervais says the Minecraft program “is a great opportunity for our whole area to give those young, innovative minds something else to think about, and to have another club they can attend.”
SPDSS hopes to continue to expand in the future, create partnerships, and promote science, “not only in the Lakeland region,” but far-north, says Abbasi.
“Our vision is to go all the way to Cold Lake, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie, and become a strong northern region in science,” he says.
Abbasi believes that there are “great, innovative, and dedicated” science teachers in the region, as well as kids showing “great potential.” In addition, there are also many community sponsors and supporters.
“We just need to get them together to empower kids to build a great future – not for themselves but for the world at large.”
Abbasi thanked the community for its “overwhelming response and support.”
Parents and teachers who are “enthusiastic about STEM and STEAM” can get in touch with Abbasi via email at: email@example.com