Fermi questions? The answer is YES

The 28th annual York University Engineering & Science (YES) Olympics will showcase some of the country’s brightest high-school students in the areas of science and engineering. The competition takes place today at York’s Keele campus.

Right: High-school students work on a challenge during last year’s YES Olympics

More than 1,200 students from 70 high schools across Canada will converge on York University to participate in YES. Included in this year’s competition is a team from the northern First Nations community of High Level, Alta.

The competition will see students solve a number of challenges that test teamwork and knowledge. The YES Olympics offer students a chance to experience the challenge and excitement of working against the clock on various science-related events. The events, organized like a track meet, are held throughout the day. At the end of the day prizes will be awarded to the best three teams in each event and a trophy to the school that obtains the highest number of points and is declared the overall championship school.

Included in the activities are the following challenges:

  • Fermi Questions –  Named for Enrico Fermi, who sought to challenge the quantitative thinking powers of his students with questions that required order-of-magnitude answers. Teams answer a series of questions by giving approximate answers. For example, ‘‘How many roofing shingles are replaced annually in Canada?’’
  • Shuttle Launch – Students will design and build a small planetary lander. The team’s lander will be launched from a pre-determined height and must land on a pre-established runway.
  • Robocode III – Each team will submit one Robocode Robot to compete in a series of heats. Every school may enter up to two teams
  • Hooke’s Cannon – Teams will build a catapult device designed to launch a standard size tennis ball at a series of targets.
  • Stuck in Space – Teams will design a glue made solely from edible products.

The event is made possible by a $500,000 gift from the Imperial Oil Foundation to York University’s Science Outreach Program. In addition to the YES Olympics program, Science Outreach also organizes York’s summer science camps for kids and a speaker’s program in which professors visit elementary and high-school classes to generate excitement about the sciences.

"Imperial Oil believes that educating and inspiring young people in the areas of science and technology is beneficial for them and vital for the future prosperity of the country," said Monica Samper, president, Imperial Oil Foundation. "We share this belief with York University and are delighted to continue our joint efforts to demonstrate to young people that careers in these fields are exciting and rewarding."

"Engagement and outreach to the community is part of our mission at York University," said York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. "We recognize the special role we play in educating young people about their options in life and we thank Imperial Oil for helping us fill that important role."

Paul Marcus, president and CEO of York University Foundation, points out that the YES Olympics is a special day for many students. "The success of this event speaks for itself in terms of the number of students who attend and their excitement level," he says. "As a result of the support from Imperial Oil Foundation, this event and other Science Outreach activities will continue to encourage young minds toward a university education and career in the sciences."

The YES Olympics will officially kick-off today at 9am in Lecture Hall A, Computer Science & Engineering Building. For more information, visit the YES Olympics Web site.