January 10, 2019

AllSpark9 hosted their first-ever Sparkin' STEM Conference

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On Nov. 24, 2018, Team 4939, AllSpark9 from Central Peel Secondary School hosted their first Sparkin' STEM Conference for middle school students. This conference was held as a means to inspire and engage youth in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. This STEM conference was an incredible success, with students from all over the Peel community leaving the day with newfound knowledge and a greater interest in STEM.

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The day commenced with AllSpark9 presenting key ideas in relation to leadership and working in teams. The delegates were then led through ice breakers as a course to explain the importance of design-thinking and creativity in STEM. These activities also broke the initial hesitation students felt towards socializing and interacting with other students.

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As the day went on, representatives from the Women in Science and Engineering (W.I.S.E.) chapter at the University of Toronto did a presentation regarding the various fields of STEM that are available in the future. The students were quite surprised and intrigued by the wide range of options that they can explore in today's STEM world. The presentation ended with an educational and competitive Kahoot that was very exciting for the delegates.​

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The final activity before lunch was a team-parent speaker from Magna. It was a pleasure to have him bring his insight on a real world experience in STEM. The presentation gave an in-depth view on the meticulous process of building a car, which was of particular interest to the many delegates.

After lunch, the students got the opportunity to hear about the great importance of math in the technology we have today from a highly experienced computer science teacher at Central Peel S.S. He captured the interest of the delegates with his great passion and experience with STEM.

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Next, the highlight of the day, was the STEMazing Race! The students were divided into multiple groups and each group was assigned an influential person in the history of STEM. The idea of the race was to complete six activities with the group in the allotted time and the first group to complete all the activities was awarded a prize. Before beginning, group leaders took the time to share some interesting ideas about each influencer to their group and then the games began.

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First up was the LEGO-building workshop. Teams had to work together to re-create a structure out of lego. The twist was that only one team member was allowed to look at the structure and had to describe it without touching their team's structure. This activity showcased the importance of obtaining strong communication skills when working in a team, which is a key skill to have in STEM fields.

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Next, groups took on the challenge of building a marble roller coaster out of pool noodles that fit the requirements. These groups were introduced to some primary concepts of physics in a very fun and interactive activity! ​

Once that challenge was completed, groups moved on to the building-a-catapult and -bridge workshops. Teams had to use their design-thinking skills to come up with efficient designs of the mechanisms that accomplished the goals in a very limited time. Cooperative work, organization and critical thinking skills were essential to complete these tasks.

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Next, groups headed up to a noteworthy problem-solving task since being a good problem solver is imperative in the programming world. The problem the groups tackled is known as Traffic Jam. The only way to solve the problem was by working together and listening to their group members.

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The final activity was the DNA extraction. Groups were taught how to extract DNA from strawberries using household items. With the allotted time, teams were required to complete the first half of the experiment in their groups, and the other half was demonstrated by Team 4939 volunteers at the end of the race.

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Before the closing ceremonies, Sparkin' STEM's introduced their final speaker, Sumeet Gill, an impressive and empowering engineer. She spoke about breaking barriers in the field of STEM, especially as a woman.

Team 4939's previous competition robots and their new robotic arm was also put on display for the kids to interact with. As the delegates were leaving the Sparkin' STEM Conference, they received certificates signifying their incredible participation and attitude shown throughout the day and a few guides of STEM activities that could be completed at home.

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It's safe to say, Team 4939's Sparkin' STEM Conference was a remarkable success! To stay updated with AllSpark9's future initiatives and for more information on Team 4939, you can visit their website at www.allspark9.com.

Photographers: Harshi Buvanesan, Mathurshan Nadarajar, Akash Kanagarajah, Ayaz Nakhuda and Visha Patel

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