Shad Valley

2005 Winner: Excellence In Science And Technology Public Awareness

Summer Program Launches Aspiring Students to New Heights

When the school year ends in June, most high school students look forward to putting academic pursuits behind them. But summer learning is front and centre for Shad Valley participants. Each July the Shad Valley program identifies Canada’s most talented senior high school students and sends them off to a top university for a one-month immersion with leading researchers to indulge their passion for science and technology.

For more than 25 years, Shad Valley has inspired exceptional young people to choose careers in science and technology. In the process the national program is creating the leaders of tomorrow’s knowledge economy. Each year between September and December, Shad Valley promotes the program among students, teachers, guidance counsellors and science curriculum leaders. Staff and alumni fan out to make presentations at schools. To qualify, students must demonstrate academic excellence, particularly in science and math, community and school involvement, and innovative thinking. Successful candidates choose the campus they would like to attend from among 12 across Canada (the University of Calgary has been a favourite) and submit requests for financial support. The program is available to any qualified student regardless of financial circumstances.

During July, 50 students per campus live and work with faculty and staff in project teams. Each team develops a new product based on an annual theme. They conduct market surveys, create business plans and create prototypes. The best teams from each campus vie for the RBC/Shad Entrepreneurship Cup, presented each October. During August, the top teams hone their projects in preparation for the judging. Student entries have shown what can happen when you unleash young people’s entrepreneurship, creativity and passion for science. Projects have ranged from a satellite tracking system that helps locate lost children to a board game for the visually impaired. Shad Valley students also compete to participate in an August internship program that provides an opportunity to work in the real world. Alberta students have interned with companies such as NOVA Chemicals, CN Rail, Syncrude and Stantec.

Nearly 9,000 students, 600 of them from Alberta, have gone through the Shad Valley program since it started. Indicative of the program’s impact, 85 per cent of Shad Valley alumni pursued careers in science or engineering. Shad Valley has expanded its reach among rural students in Alberta through support of Alberta-based partners. As a result Alberta student applications and participation increased by 50 per cent in 2005.