WOLFVILLE: Two of the three organizers of the Canadian CyberSTEAM Challenge are from Nova Scotia.
Jessica Bennett, from Wolfville, and Margaret Hopkins, also from Wolfville, have teamed with Sandra Mai, from Richmond Hill, Ont. for the challenge. Bennett is attending the University of Alberta; Hopkins is going to Acadia University, while Mai is at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The three are united in their passion for advocating the integration of the Arts into STEM disciplines.
The Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge is a new online initiative for youth in grades 6-9 across the country. It was developed by the TeamUP Science Society based in Edmonton at the University of Alberta.
The story on how it came to be is quite unique in that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to make their events not only accessible to youth in Edmonton, but across Canada.
The goal of the Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge (C3) is to encourage youth to integrate the Arts into STEM disciplines, placing a focus on STEAM.
“Our second aim is to promote outside-the-box thinking,” said Bennett in an email interview with The Laker News. “We hope to bridge the divide between STEM and the Arts by hosting a series of interdisciplinary challenges that students across Canada can complete from the comfort of their own homes.”
C3 is comprised of 6 challenges designed to give hands-on exploration of all 5 STEAM tiers while solving a real-world problem. On each competition weekend, the challenge will be posted on the C3 website (http://canadacybersteamchallenge.com) and participants will have 48 hours to submit their best work.
The first C3 Challenge weekend is set for Oct. 17.
Example challenges include building a homemade Rube Goldberg machine or programming a virtual Magic 8 Ball. While students don’t have to complete all 6 challenges it’s highly recommended as there will be prizes.
Bennett said putting on the Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge was a huge step towards helping her realize her dream of starting STEAM advocacy initiatives across Canada.
“I’m grateful to be able to work with individuals from across the country who share my passion for STEAM,” she said. “It is my hope by the end of the year to have at least one student from each Canadian province registered in the C3 event.
“At this time, we have participants from Nova Scotia and Alberta, and volunteers from Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Bangladesh, and Dubai.”
She was inspired to advocate STEAM to youth since she was 16. She first advocated for STEAM in Greenwich, NS in 2016 at Horton High School.
Horton Brain War ran for three years and engaged over 150 junior high, high school and post secondary students from the Annapolis Valley and HRM regions. She then started a similar competition in Edmonton with TeamUP Science (the Youth STEAM Innovation Challenge), which was a circuit-style competition that drew in close to 150 junior high and post-secondary students per year.
“The Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge was born as a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “When I decided to move my STEAM advocacy online, I saw it as an opportunity to open the competition up to students across Canada, and to once again share the possibilities of a STEAM career with youth in my home province of N.S.”
Of the 72 attendees we have so far, 27 are from NS (close to 40%).
“Of all the Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia is contributing the second-highest percentage of attendees, following Alberta,” said Bennett.