November 2, 2007
By Kirk Sibbald
One of the University’s most successful outreach programs has been awarded a top honour by its member organization, highlighting an evolving effort to reach underrepresented children throughout the province.
The College of Engineering’s Sci-Fi Science Camps was recently notified it had won the annual Actua award for Leadership and Innovation. Actua is Canada’s leading science, engineering and youth outreach network, representing like organizations on campuses throughout Canada.
In a news release, Actua said Sci-Fi was chosen for the award for its commitment in reaching minority and isolated populations throughout the province, an aspect of the program that has picked up significantly in recent years.
Sci-Fi was established in 1989, and until a few years ago only held science camps in Saskatoon and the surrounding area, said Kurt Touet, director of outreach and transition programs for the College of Engineering. However, recognizing there was a huge potential for expansion of the program, Touet and his team did just that.
“Saskatchewan has such a huge rural population, such a spread out population, that to only have camps in Saskatoon was limiting when our goal is to reach youth throughout the province,” he said.
Today, those working for Sci-Fi spend the majority of their summer months travelling to all corners of the province, including fly-in communities in Saskatchewan’s far north. Last year’s summer science camps at the U of S attracted 1,400 students, and the organization also conducted 500 classroom workshops through May and June, reaching another 11,300 children.
And as the organization’s scope has grown, so too has its list of sponsors, allowing the program to sport an annual budget of nearly $500,000.
Although based in the College of Engineering, student staff members for Sci-Fi come from various academic backgrounds, such as biology, chemistry, physics and education, said Malcolm Reeves, assistant dean of undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering.
In addition to their regular summer outreach programs, Sci-Fi also participates in a national initiative to get girls engaged in science and technology, dubbed Girls Exploring Science. Reeves said this particular program is particularly beneficial for the college as females currently represent only about 20 per cent of students enrolled in Engineering at the U of S.
“I’m really proud of them (Sci-Fi staff). There isn’t another group in Engineering who are as well organized and dedicated to what they do,” said Reeves.