Let the YES games begin

More than 1,000 high school students from 70 schools across Ontario will vie for scientific gold at the 27th York Engineering & Science (YES) Olympics. The games take place today on York’s Keele campus from 8:30am to 3:30pm.

“It’s a fantastic way to get high-school students thinking about a career in science,” says event organizer Keith Aldridge (left), professor of geophysics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. “They really look forward to this throughout the year. It’s a great opportunity for them to have some fun and enjoy some good old-fashioned rivalry while putting their scientific skills to work.”

The YES Olympics feature six events, designed by professors in the Faculty. “We’ve created some challenges this year with sustainability in mind,” says Aldridge. “The environment, particularly energy conservation and alternative sources, is certainly on many people’s minds.”

Gold, silver and bronze prizes will be awarded for each event, and a trophy will be presented to the overall winning school. A school may enter only one team for each event.

Aldridge says that students enjoy the objectivity of the judging criteria and the chance to take science out of the classroom and into a laboratory setting.

“They get one shot, just like in the real world,” he says.

Events include answering Fermi Questions, where teams give approximate answers to questions such as, “how many roofing shingles are replaced annually in Canada?”; and the popular Future Fuel challenge that has teams developing a mixture of ingredients and organisms that maximizes BioFuel (ethanol) production, which will be tested during a three-hour fermentation at room temperature.

Teams will also build a car designed to travel as far as possible using a single elastic band in the Planet Rover challenge, and for the Tea Making Challenge they’ll have to make a steaming cup of drinkable tea using heat generated through mechanical means only.

The Water Rocket challenges teams to design a water-powered rocket for maximum range of flight. In the York Lander task, students will design and build a small lander. An egg inside the lander must be protected from the impact after the lander is hurled from a predetermined height.

For program details see the Engineering & Science Olympics Web site.