Imperial Oil Foundation reaches out to future scientists

The 28th annual York University Engineering & Science (YES) Olympics, the competitions for high-school students which took place at York on May 15, were a resounding success thanks in part to a generous gift of $500,000 over five years made recently by the Imperial Oil Foundation. The overall winner of the games was William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute in Toronto, On.

The Imperial Oil Foundation’s gift supports three science education and outreach programs at York. The Science Olympics, the Science Speakers’ Bureau and the Science Explorations Summer Camp are all organized by the Faculty of Science & Engineering for the Imperial Oil Science Outreach Program at York University.

Among the more difficult challenges posed at this year’s competition was Stuck in Space, which involved making an edible glue to fuse together tongue depressors and then suspend a weight from the composite beam. The task presented the additional challenge of using readily available household ingredients only. After 45 minutes and 3.2 kilograms of dead weight, a carefully crafted support finally broke, and a winner was announced. The team from West Humber Collegiate Institute of Toronto, stood victorious. Their ingredients remain a secret.

Above: Competitors test out the effectiveness of a Hooke’s cannon

From a mechanical engineering standpoint, the Hooke’s cannon event required the most elaborate design input by participants. The event required the construction of a device resembling a catapult to fling tennis balls at a target. Designs varied immensely.

"The YES Olympics is one of the largest and most important outreach events in the Faculty," said Nick Cercone, dean of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. "It requires the combined efforts of faculty, staff and students and generates a tremendous amount of enthusiasm across all departments. We are very grateful for the generosity of the Imperial Oil Foundation in supporting this wonderful celebration of science and engineering."

At the opening ceremonies, Monica Samper (left), president of Imperial Oil Foundation, asked for a show of hands among the students in attendance to indicate who intended to pursue a career in science, math or technology. Many hands went up. Samper then said, "I hope that, for those of you who didn’t raise your hand, these games are what will cause you to change your mind!

"It is young minds like yours that are going to resolve issues for people of the future," said Samper.

"We are very lucky to have support from the Imperial Oil Foundation. They really care about communities across this nation," said Paul Marcus, president & CEO of the York University Foundation, in his comments to participants. "One of the things that Imperial Oil does is really focus on younger people and on developing science and math outreach in this country."

"We hope that some of you someday will be here not only as students, but as faculty members remaining engaged in the Science Olympics and ensuring that this exciting field continues to be strong and vibrant," said then York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden.

Submitted by David Wallace, communications officer, York University Foundation.