Discover E Engineering & Science Camps

2009 Winner: Excellence In Science And Technology Public Awareness

Camps Introduce Youth To Science And Technology

Discover E Engineering and Science Camps have been turning Alberta youth onto science and engineering since 1993. The camps were established because of educators’ concerns about the small numbers of students entering the engineering field.

“One of the major impacts of the program has been increasing scientific literacy in general,” says Mrs. Shelagh Pyper, outreach coordinator. “We are also increasing the number of passionate boys and girls who are turned onto science to make it a really diverse field in future.”

Connecting with the Youth

New programs place science in context of current events and the campers’ lives, allow them to use critical thinking and be more confident of themselves. Mrs. Pyper says the camps help kids make better decisions, be better consumers and influence politics in a good way.

Discover E’s focus is reaching girls, aboriginal youth, youth in remote communities, and disadvantaged youth. In 2009 Discover E launched the Girls Engineering and Mentorship (GEM) club. Under the mentorship of female undergraduate engineering student volunteers, 50 participants from grades three to eight built indestructible buildings, wired electrical circuits, launched straw rockets and explored facilities on the University of Alberta campus. “We reached a milestone last year,” Mrs. Pyper says. “We always wanted to increase girls’  enrolment in camps to 40 per cent of participants. Last year we reached 35 per cent.”

Partnering with Aboriginal Groups 

Discover E has been successful in developing partnerships and providing outreach programs to remote aboriginal communities. The organization also set up a bursary for urban aboriginal youth and in 2009, partnered with the Canadian Native Friendship Centre to engage the youth. About 50 kids from grades one to six attended two camps in the summer that focused on science, engineering and technology, incorporating traditional teachings, mentor events and sessions with aboriginal elders.

“I’m really proud of the partnerships we’ve created with aboriginal groups,” Mrs. Pyper says. “It’s an important relationship that will help these kids get into the technology fields.”

Overcoming Obstacles

Youth in remote regions also benefit from Discover E’s programs, which travel as far north as Tuktoyaktuk twice a year to deliver workshops and camps. With the addition of video conferencing workshops in 2008 the programs now reach even more remote communities.  “This year 50 communities in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories participated in Discover E,” Mrs. Pyper enthuses. “It’s really exciting that technology is empowering us to reach even more communities.”

Discover E has addressed some of the barriers for disadvantaged inner city youth by developing a partnership with the City Centre Education Project in Edmonton. It allowed Discover E to bring summer programming into the community for kids in grades one to four.

Mrs. Pyper is optimistic that with continuing enthusiastic Faculty of Engineering and community support, Discover E camps will continue to reach more children and engage them in science and technology.