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Grace Anzovino, Brooklyn Dobson, Ellie Smith, Lauren PortugalScience Queens: St. John de Brebeuf students Grace Anzovino, Brooklyn Dobson, Ellie Smith, and Lauren Portugal donned tiaras, sashes, and safety goggles Friday to compete in the Let’s Talk Science Challenge.

Challenge inspires grade schoolers in scientific pursuit

Brooklyn Dobson and Lauren Portugal love math. Ellie Smith is into technology and Grace Anzovino has a new-found love of physics.

Together they are the Science Queens — a team of Grade 7 students from St. John de Brebeuf school in Kingsville who participated Friday in the University of Windsor’s Let’s Talk Science Challenge.

More than 140 students in grades 6, 7 and 8 from schools across Windsor and Essex County competed in the event designed to spark the upcoming generation’s interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The students participating have been handpicked by their teachers,” said Connie Hillman, who coaches the three teams competing from St. John de Brebeuf. “They are all students who excel in math and science, and they are also the most willing to do all the extra work involved.”

Students had to learn a curriculum on their own including earth science, environmental science, physics, chemistry, biology, math, technology, and engineering.

Some, like the safety-goggle and tiara-donning Science Queens, came in costume. Others, from local private academies, proudly wore their school uniforms.

The first part of the competition was a game show with teams accumulating points for correct answers. In the afternoon, teams were challenged to build a design from a mystery box of materials.

Académie Ste-Cécile placed first in the competition, with Assumption Middle School placing second, followed by Al-Hijra Academy. The spirit award went to a team of Grade 8 girls from St. John de Brebeuf.

The event, held at university campuses throughout Canada, is part of a national push to ignite careers in STEM said UWindsor organizer Michelle Bondy, experiential learning specialist in the Faculty of Science. More than 70 per cent of Canadian jobs demand STEM, she said.

“Let’s Talk Science is helping to prepare youth to live and work in an increasingly scientific world.”

The program was developed by a London-based charitable organization called Let’s Talk Science which gets funding from the federal government, industry, foundations, and private donors.

More than 30 UWindsor students volunteered to help run the event. They acted as mentors, encouraging the science challenge participants to ask about the University and studying science here. Some of those same students visit local elementary school classrooms and lead experiments as part of the science outreach program.

Phil Dutton, associate dean of science, gave a welcoming address.

“I’m a chemist because I like to blow things up,” he told the young visitors. “Keep pursuing your interests and keep having fun.”

─ Sarah Sacheli

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