May 5, 2023

UCalgary celebrates future scientists at 2023 Calgary Youth Science Fair

Students showcase scientific research and discoveries at annual competition
2023 Calgary Youth Science Fair, held at the University of Calgary's Olympic Oval
2023 Calgary Youth Science Fair, held at the University of Calgary's Olympic Oval. Riley Brandt photos, University of Calgary

Four years after its last in-person gathering, the Calgary Youth Science Fair (CYSF) once again took over the University of Calgary’s Olympic Oval in late April for what has been called Canada’s largest science fair.

The fair attracted more than 1,000 competitors from Grades 5 to 12 who showed off their youthful scientific ideas and inventions. 

Awards, prizes and more prizes

UCalgary was a platinum-level sponsor of the CYSF’s awards ceremony, held April 22. 

One of the top awards was the University of Calgary Chancellor and Senate Award, valued at $2,500. The award was presented to Grade 9 student Renata Hollander of F.E. Osborne School for her project, The Mathematics of Language through History: Does Zipf's Law Always Apply?, on the complexity of language throughout the centuries and the mathematics associated with vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure. 

“There were so many fantastic and cool projects that I really didn’t consider the possibility I could win,” says Hollander about hearing her name being called for the top award. 

This was Hollander's second time attending the CYSF, which she says was even more fun than when she attended back in Grade 5 because she now has a much deeper appreciation for all of the projects.

“As a kid, you are curious, but it can be difficult to stay curious when you get older,” says Hollander. “Universities like UCalgary play a huge role in helping middle school and high school students stay interested in the sciences, especially when they host an event like the Youth Science Fair.”

When asked what advice she would give to other kids interested in science or wanting to participate in a science fair, Hollander emphasizes the importance of asking questions, remaining curious and pursuing something you are interested in.

Chancellor Jon Cornish, who presented the award, says the competition, held virtually the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, truly reflects UCalgary’s “Start something” philosophy. 

“At UCalgary, we believe in supporting young scientists and providing them with the resources they need to succeed,” says Cornish. “And, from the talent we see here today, it’s clear that the sky's the limit for innovative young people.” 

Various UCalgary faculties, departments and units sponsored more than 20 awards and donated 30 to 40 raffle prizes to the CYSF, contributing to the recognition of the innovative ideas and hard work from the budding scientists.

Students heard from UCalgary’s brightest minds

UCalgary also hosted a Noontime Speakers Program during the CYSF that featured three university leaders who spoke with the aim of inspiring student participants to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Speakers included Dr. Penny Pexman, PhD, associate vice-president (research); Dr. Kyla Flanagan, BSc’03, PhD’08, academic lead of the College of Creativity, Discovery and Innovation and an associate professor (teaching) in the Department of Biological Sciences; and Dr. Anitha Ravishankar, PhD, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Geomatics Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

Dr. Anitha says the speakers event was a great way to connect with the students in person and let them know that science is fun, even if it can be challenging. “Many don’t choose to pursue a job in STEM because they think it’s too hard, but if you're genuinely interested, that interest matters,” she says. “This is the future that we are looking for.”

Events like the CYSF encourage youths to keep questioning, discovering and innovating. UCalgary’s involvement is helping to foster a love of learning and exploration in young minds and to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs.

The Calgary Youth Science Fair Society (CYSFS) is a 100-per-cent volunteer-run charitable organization that encourages discovery, ignites imagination, and inspires youth brilliance in our future leaders and innovators. As Canada's entrepreneurial university, UCalgary is proud to support organizations like the CYSFS that foster entrepreneurial thinking by encouraging initiatives, exchanging knowledge across disciplines, being resourceful and learning from experiences. 

The following faculties, departments, units and individuals generously contributed items and prizes for students at the CYSF: Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate Students’ Association, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Schulich School of Engineering, UCalgary Bookstore, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Innovate Calgary, Faculty of Science, Cumming School of Medicine, Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies, Undergraduate Recruitment, the Office of the Vice-President (Research), and Dr. Eva Enkelmann, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Geoscience.