Having seen the spark ignited in a young scientist's eyes, Dr. Roy Golsteyn is eager to stoke the fires of ingenuity once again. As the chief judge for the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF), to be held at the University of Lethbridge May 11-18, 2013, he'll get that opportunity, and it's one he'd like to share.
"I'm a huge believer in science fairs," says Golsteyn (BSc '84), an associate professor of biology and the director of the Cancer Cell Laboratory at the U of L.
He participated in science fairs as a kid, but never competed beyond the local level. Now, as a judge whose own children have competed nationally, he sees the true value of encouraging scientific discovery in our youth.
"You see it, there's a real sense of excitement in these kids," says Golsteyn. "Some are just starting to dabble in science, some have already acquired a lot of knowledge; they like it, they like the freedom of it and they revel in the challenge.
"Having judged science fairs for the last four years, I always walk away happily impressed, because there are some smart kids out there and we get an opportunity to not only meet them but to also encourage them to continue to pursue science."
The CWSF is a massive undertaking, featuring 400 of the top science projects in the country and involving more than 1,100 students (Grades 7 to 12), chaperones, judges, sponsors and delegates. There are more than 400 judges alone who are needed to officiate the proceedings and as Chief Judge, one of Golsteyn's main duties is to recruit the best group of judges he can find.
"We are attracting the best science students from across the country, so we want to match those students with the best judges we have in southern Alberta," says Golsteyn. "Fortunately for us, southern Alberta is pretty scientist dense."
Golsteyn cites the valuable resources available at the U of L, Lethbridge College, the Canada Research Centre, the Regional Hospital and major industry such as Pratt & Whitney, which has a very strong engineering component to its operation.
"We know there are many qualified judges in southern Alberta, it's more an issue of people being able to find time to take part," he says.
To that end, judging is limited to just one day, and even half-day participation can be considered. A pre-competition orientation evening is also involved and judges are encouraged to stay through the evening of competition to ensure all major prizes are awarded accordingly.
The value of having a captive audience of Canada's brightest young scientific minds on the University campus for a full week cannot be understated.
"The finalists truly do come from all over Canada, and there's this ripple affect associated with that," says Golsteyn. "It's not just that there are two or three students from every region, what you'll see is that individual schools all across the country will follow their students for the week. So for that week, an entire school will be talking about the University of Lethbridge, whether that's in Nunavut or Victoria."
There are three qualification levels for judges, including those with master's degrees or greater in sciences, those with professional diplomas such as engineering or veterinary medicine, and those with professional diplomas and experience in a science and technology-related field. Scientists with French language skills are also especially welcomed.
The U of L is uniquely suited to host a Canada-Wide Science Fair because of its already inherent science outreach programs.
"That's one of the reasons for my commitment to doing this," says Golsteyn. "It is so aligned with what we already do at the University and what so many scientists are trying to do across the country. Here's an opportunity to share our expertise and to influence the next generation of young scientists."
He's seen, first-hand, how beneficial it is to students. His children (Quentin, 15, and Charlène, 12) have participated in science fairs and attended CWSF in Charlottetown, PEI last year. His daughter Audrey, 10, also has a distinct interest in microbiology and is likely on the same path.
"Sometimes science isolates students at that age. There are things that are cool and things that are less cool and sometimes science falls into that less cool category," says Golsteyn. "One of the goals of the science fair is to give these kids a week dedicated to science, and the opportunity to share it with people their own age who are just like them, just as thrilled about science as they are."
Those interested in joining Golsteyn on the judging committee can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He promises it will be a rewarding experience.
"I'm really excited about the possibilities this week provides for the U of L," he says. "It's a lot of work to do this right but in the end, it's so valuable to everyone involved, it's definitely worth it."
GET THE FACTS
· Student finalists for the Canada-Wide Science Fair are winners of their regional or provincial science fairs
· Approximately 400 projects from 500 youth finalists from across 100 national regions will be attending the Canada-Wide Science Fair
· Up to $1,000,000 in scholarships and prizes are available to participants
· U of L Arts & Science faculty have confirmation from Dean Dr. Chris Nicol that serving as judges for CWSF qualifies as part of their community service component
· Golsteyn, as chief judge, has relief for one of the two courses he was scheduled to teach this semester. His research activities continue however, "It just gets pushed a little later into the night," he says