YES Olympics attracts schools from across Ontario

The engineering and scientific proficiencies of high-school students from across Ontario were put to the test at York on Oct. 14 at the 30th annual York Engineering & Science (YES) Olympics. The games, which took place at the Computer Science & Engineering Building on York’s Keele campus, attracted more than 500 students from schools across Ontario.

For 2009, these were the events students took part in:

  • Fermi Questions: This event is named for Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who sought to challenge the quantitative thinking powers of his students with questions that seek fast, rough estimates of a quantity which is difficult or impossible to measure. Teams answered a series of questions such as, ‘‘How many drops of water are there in Lake Ontario?’’
  • Photovore Race: Students constructed a mobile robotic platform to follow light, commonly known as a photovore. The main objective of the race was to travel furthest through a maze, using a flashlight (or similar light source) as a main navigation method.
  • Robocode II: Each team programmed up to two Java-based robots with low carbon footprints to compete in a series of heats.
  • Enviro-Geocaching: Teams used hand-held GPS receivers to locate eco-friendly objects hidden at pre-set coordinates.
  • Biofuel Challenge: Students used a Web-based calculator to answer this question: “For schools in the GTA, how much rainforest in Brazil would be lost if the buses and cars transporting students to school all ran on biofuels?”
  • Chemical Squabble: Teams competed directly against each other by making up formulae of chemical compounds in Scrabble fashion from a pack of cards, each of which had the name of an element or radical on it.

Left: Students play Chemical Squabble, where school teams challenge each other’s chemical vocabulary

“The YES Olympics showcases science at York to an enthusiastic and highly capable group of young people,” said Peter Cribb, associate dean students affairs, of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. “I congratulate the faculty and staff involved who devote a great deal of time and energy to creating a fun event that the participants clearly enjoy.”

Students from 30 different schools took part in the competition. Each challenge focused on using scientific knowledge to solve complex exercises. Among the more difficult tests was the Chemical Squabble, which asked students to compete for top scores based on their chemical vocabulary. The team from York Mills Collegiate Institute scored incredibly high by combining elements and radicals for a winning 113 points.

Right: An example of a photovore that was navigated through an obstacle course using a flashlight

The Photovore Race challenge required the most elaborate design input by participants. The event required teams to construct a small robot which could follow a light source and be navigated through a maze. The winning team from Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic Secondary School in Toronto far exceeded all of the judges’ expectations by moving a distance of 56.2 metres through the maze.

Left: The obstacle course the photovores were navigated through

The overall winner of the games, which were sponsored by Imperial Oil Foundation, was University of Toronto Schools. This year, a special tribute was made to the founder of the event, Keith Aldridge, with the official naming of the first-prize trophy, the Aldridge Cup.

The Imperial Oil Science Outreach Program at York University supports three science education and outreach programs in coordination with the Faculty of Science & Engineering. The outreach programs are the York Engineering & Science Olympics, the Science Speakers Bureau and the Science and Engineering Explorations summer camps.

For more information, visit the York Engineering & Science Olympics Web site.