Thursday, 19 March 2015 07:00

Science Fair/Olympics at MHC allows secondary students to enjoy science

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Budding scientists of all levels and interests will have the opportunity to get involved on a casual or competitive level in the front foyer area called Centennial Hall at the Medicine Hat College (MHC) March 21.

There is a double whammy of science as both the SoutheastAlberta Science Fair and the APEGA Science Olympics, in co-operation with the Alberta Professionals in Engineering and Science (APEGA), PRAXIS Society and the college, takes place for those who want to do some experiments, learn about different scientific phenomenon and just have some fun learning from some volunteer mentors from those groups.
 Cathy Linowski (MHC representative), co-ordinator with the Division of Science and Health who teaches biology and environmental science and is also the PRAXIS board president can’t wait for the science fair and olympics to start. She says as far as the olympics go, APEGA handles the organization of it.
“APEGA has their members there who are doing mentoring and other volunteers helping,” explains Linowski.
The science olympics allows the public and students to take part and learn. If that wasn’t enough, it coincides with the 2015 Southeast Alberta Kiwanis Regional Science Fair.
The science fair will attract students from not only Prairie Rose and Grasslands school divisions, but also students from both Medicine Hat divisions and home-schooled students from southeast Alberta.
Susan Rowsell, who is the chair of the Science Fair committee, was unsure of exact numbers a week prior to the competition, but agrees there is a trend towards the rebounding of science’s popularity with students.
“I’d like to think so and looking at all the activities out there, social media and what we do in Praxis, science in general is more fun,” explains Rowsell who is director on the PRAXIS board and works as a biologist at Defence Research and Development Canada at Suffield.
Organizers hand out surveys to find out how the students have heard of the event.
Linowski adds a change in curriculum into more of an inquiry-based learning has also helped. Now students are getting a block of data.
Learning information and knowing how to apply it for more problem solving also makes science look like a more viable option.
“It’s starting to show in schools now,” says Linowski.
Rowsell says they don’t actively recruit students into entering the science fair, but just have the students register. They allow PRAXIS, the Southeast Alberta Science Outreach Network, whose goal it is to “link to educational and scientific communities in South Eastern Alberta” to get the information out.
The science fair projects are in the environmental science, computer science/engineers, biotechnology/ life science or physical sciences.
The categories include from grades 4-6, 7-8, 9-10 and grades 11-12. Set up for the science fair starts at 8 a.m. with the public viewing going from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and the awards ceremony running from 3-4 p.m.
A volunteer committee from Suffield Research Centre, engineers from APEGA and the Medicine Hat College help organize the fair and find judges.
According to the PRAXIS website: “the Southeast Alberta Regional Science Fair Committee is a subcommittee of Praxis and is comprised of scientific and technological professionals as well as those interested in promoting Science Fair in the Southeast Alberta region.”
The fair has been going since 1975 and Linowski says it provides good vehicle for the college to be involved with students.
“The college has for many years been the host for this science outreach program,” explains Linowski. “It’s a great way to help students consider possibilities in science or even the college.”
Rowsell says organizers are expecting between 90 to 100 students. The ratio of the type of projects isn’t balanced. There isn’t as many entries in computer science-related projects with more in the biological and environment.
“We’re getting a pretty big push from the Science 101 program promoting it,” adds Rowsell who notes there is not a lot of difficulty in finding judges as those in the scientific field in southeast Alberta are generous with their time.
“There’s so much technology in our lives now ... access to information is quite a bit bigger so it’s easier for kids to get info, maybe a little easier to get interested in different (facets of science.)”
Many of those students who have competed in past southeast Alberta fairs have done well in their own schools’ science fairs and winning on the weekend will give them the opportunity to compete in the Canadian-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, New Brunswick in May. All expenses are paid courtesy of the Kiwanis Club of Medicine Hat and other donors.
According to some stats from PRAXIS, 142 students participated in the 2014 Regional Science Fair with 19 school represented. It was generally students from grades 4-6 with 60 per cent being girls. About 95 per cent of the students indicated they would enter again with 65 per cent never having entered before.
Evan Mason from Seven Persons School went to Windsor Ont. to compete in the Canada Wide Science Fair competition in 2014.
The general public is welcome to attend and take part where they can.
“People can come out to it, even if they don’t have children in the science fair,” explains Linowski. “It’s a great way to support science and education.”

Read 2148 times Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 07:16
Ryan Dahlman

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