It’s 11:15 a.m. and students in grades 9-11 from Oshawa’s Maxwell Heights and Whitby’s Sinclair secondary schools are all crowded in room UA1140 at the University of Ontario Institute Technology (UOIT) attending their first university lecture.
They are among the nearly 500 students from all over Durham Region on hand for UOIT’s bi-annual Science Day event to learn about the different fields of science they can take.
UOIT professor Kevin Coulter is giving a talk called, ‘Solar Fuels Research: Water splitting catalysis with a chemistry lab tour’. He’s teaching the students about renewable energies and the response of the students was not favourable.
High school teachers are walking around ‘shushing’ and giving their students a stern look attempting to get them to pay attention to the lecture. Trying to get young teenagers to listen to a university lecture isn’t meeting with success.
At least not initially. But things aren’t always how they seem.
Destiny Mullen, a grade 11 student at Maxwell Heights, says she only ever considered the health sciences, however, after attending the chemistry lecture and an earth science lecture during Science Day, her eyes are open to new things.
Mullen says she found the chemistry lecture very interesting. She was able to follow along because the chemical formulas that Coulter was talking about were things she recently started learning in class.
Mullen says she found the earth science lecture to be more abstract and theoretical and found the chemistry lecture to be more practical. According to Mullen, she thought it was “neat” how UOIT participated in different forms of research and how it might be something she would like to participate in one day.
Mullen was not the only student from an Oshawa secondary school who had an interest in the lecture she attended. Maija Kimunen, a grade 12 student at O’Neill CVI, had a strong interest in her ‘Data hacking for fun and profit’ lecture.
Kimunen says she has always been interested in video game design and thought the lecture was helpful and gave her knowledge she can use towards her goal. She says she learned hacking isn’t always negative and was originally just a term for finding a solution to a problem.
According to Kimunen, she initially intended to go to either UOIT or OCAD after hearing about their video game design programs, but after the lecture she realizes she has more options and computer science might be what she wants to pursue.
Damien Liscio, Deanndra Balkaran and Eleanor Cloves, three grade 12 students at Pine Ridge Secondary School, thought Science Day was a good way to see what actual university lectures are like.
The three of them really enjoyed the lecture called ‘Search for the New Earths’.
The three students had never been interested in astronomy before. And while they aren’t necessarily interested in changing their intended majors, they are thinking about taking classes they previously never considered. Liscio says “maybe not astronomy specifically but it kind of opened my eyes to fields that I thought wouldn’t interest me maybe, due, because I have a lack of knowledge in that area.”
“It was really eye-opening,” says Cloves.
The three students had attended multiple information seminars about different universities, however, they feel Science Day actually gave them a sample of what university is like.
UOIT’s Science Day “is not something a lot of universities offer,” said Balkaran.
Balkaran says because they live in Pickering, they are often encouraged to look at schools such as the University of Toronto or Ryerson. But Cloves says after listening to the lectures, she is now considering UOIT.
This was UOIT’s second Science Day event this calendar year.
The first one ever was held in February, and according to Paula Di Cato, UOIT senior lecturer and organizer of the event, nearly 500 students showed interest in the event. The invites had been given to only schools in the Durham Region and hosted students from grades 9–12.
According to Di Cato, the goal of the event is to recruit students to UOIT.