Before the morning is over, the aspiring forensic investigators will have collected and analyzed samples—scrutinizing the tiniest particles under a microscope and with X-ray—to determine which of the four suspects pulled the trigger.
The exercise is meant to give the students a taste of what geologists can do, which is not unlike the granular-level guesswork fictional investigators employ on popular TV shows CSI, NCIS and Bones. Sixteen-year-old Madison Chapel from Pinawa Secondary School plans on attending the U of M but is still looking for ideas about what to study.
“I like how it’s very precise work and the attention to detail,” Chapel says while chopping up coarse bits of rock. “It’s pretty cool.”
She is one of roughly 150 students from Winnipeg and elsewhere in Manitoba who took part in Science Engineering and Technology (SET) Day held Feb. 24 on the Fort Garry campus. The sixth annual event aimed to show Grade 11 and 12 students what researchers do at the U of M.
The students spent half the day listening to presentations and, new this year, the remainder doing hands-on activities hosted by the following faculties: agricultural and food sciences; science; Clayton H. Riddell environment, earth and resources; engineering; and kinesiology and recreation management.
“It’s a good opportunity to open up young people’s mind to science,” says Kristie Lester, lab coordinator for anatomy and physiology who led ‘Hearts and Rec.’ “And it’s good for them to see how a university lab is run, using equipment they may not have access to in their high school.”
She had participants dissect sheep hearts, and taught them how to test the effects of exercise on their own heart rate, heart sounds, blood pressure and electrocardiogram results.
For Indira Mendoza, a Grade 10 student from Kildonan East Collegiate who wants to be a doctor, it is the first time she has held a heart in her hands. “It’s really amazing,” she says.
Meanwhile, in the Engineering building, professor Cyrus Shafai is teaching participants how to build an amplifier that measures the voltage generated from their arm muscle.
“I figured this would be a fun lab for them,” Shafai says as participants arm wrestle each other while hooked up to electrodes.
The students also heard presentations from professors who pressed the fast forward button and shared their vision of the future, three decades down the road. Human nutritional sciences professor James House spoke about foods we might be eating (including stem cell burgers); marketing professor Fang Wan shared her thoughts about how we’ll shop; and biochemistry and medical genetics professor Geoff Hicks offered his predictions of how DNA sequencing will change healthcare.
Westwood Collegiate math teacher Art Penning says the researchers made science “really relevant.”
“And they showed a real connection to the kids,” he says.
*** S.E.T. Day 2012
Picture Slideshow ***
Food Forecast: Will we all have green hair?
Dr. James House
A Reverie on the Future: Consumers and their brands
Dr. Fang Wan
Me and My Genome
Dr. Geoff Hicks