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Students get glimpse of university life at Indigenous Youth STEM ConferenceJune 21, 2017

Creating a miniature electric car triggered by a photo resistor in just one hour? This was just one of the many projects tackled by First Nations students at the third annual Indigenous Youth STEM Conference on May 17 and 18.

The free two-day conference introduced 280 students, Grades 5 to 8, to the world of science and engineering through a host of fun engineering workshops led by McMaster Engineering students. Participants also learned about university life, leadership and team-building skills and careers in science and engineering.

In addition to the electric car workshop, students received a lesson on chemistry by making stress balls with ooblek, a non-Newtonian property made of both liquids and solids.  They were also introduced to mechatronics by building their own snake robots out of foam plates, wires and batteries.  

“I like making stuff and learning how it works,” said Emily Thomas, a 12 year-old student at Jamieson Elementary School in Ohsweken, Ontario. “I like that this conference is about learning and making it fun at the same time.”

“Workshops benefit the kids by showing how science and engineering is integrated into every day life and how pursuing a career in the STEM field might benefit them in the future,” said Alex Randall, Grade 6 teacher at Oliver M. Smith Kawenni:io in Ohsweken, Ont.

Students also experienced university life by enjoying activities like a movie night at the dorms and swimming. 

“The reason I love this conference so much is because it gives kids a glimpse of the future,” said Randall. “They do a great job of simulating what an actual university day will be like.”

“The idea of engineering and working with your hands excites them. They look forward to this trip all year long.”