Since 2002, the Lethbridge Regional Science Fair and Science Olympics have given students in grades 4 to 12 from the city and across southwestern Alberta the chance to come together to showcase experiments and share ideas.
That changed this year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers from the Southern Alberta Technology Council (SATC) to postpone the event that had been set for March 27 and 28.
But science is about nothing if not solving problems, so when Kelly Oikawa, an instructor in the college’s General Studies and Upgrading programs and the college’s representative on the SATC, hatched a plan to move the event online, organizers bubbled with the kind of enthusiasm that might be expected from a homemade volcano experiment.
Students were able to provide submissions to the fair in video form. Virtual project judging will take place from May 4 to 11. The projects and student awards will be available for the public to see in virtually as well. Submission requirements and more information can be found at www.satclethbridge.ca.
“Many students have already completed projects and we didn’t want to disappoint those who were looking forward to participating,” says Oikawa. “We wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to show off their hard work while setting an example of being adaptable and making the best of a situation.”
Though students won’t be able to interact with judges or meet fellow participants, Oikawa says the online format has some advantages, such as giving students more chances to polish their presentations and giving those who may have been unable to attend in person a chance to take part.
Oikawa said one question that came during the discussions around moving the fair online was if students could handle the technology and demands of a virtual presentation, but he found an answer close to home.
“After a week of seeing my 10- and 13-year-olds doing online learning at home and creating, shooting, editing, and posting videos of themselves, I could see it wouldn't be an issue,” he says. “Technology is a normal for kids today.”
Supporting the science fair “is valuable to help budding scientists of the world and show them where their interest in science can take them,” says Dr. Terry Kowalchuk, the Dean of Lethbridge College’s Centre for Technology, Environment, and Design. “We’re seeing right now how important careers in science, engineering and technology are. It’ll be scientists who find the solutions to the global issues we’re facing like pandemics – and that’s an important lesson for students to learn.”
SATC is sponsored by the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge College, the University of Lethbridge, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Quantum Alberta, and many other local and regional sponsors. Some of the other college employees involved over the years include Dr. Sophie Kernéis, senior research scientist in Microbiology; Cal Koskowich, industrial technology advisor with the National Research Council Canada who works out of the college; Shoja Mazidi, Computer Information Technology instructor; Dr. Willemijn Appels, the Mueller Applied Research Chair in Irrigation, Melissa Vander Heide, institutional planning specialist; Rhys Hakstol, lab technician; and Tom Graham, a former biology instructor. Were you involved in the science fair? Let us know and we’ll add your name to our list!