Science Formal

[Science Formal setup]

Engineering students transform Grant Hall into the "The Golden Age of Film" for the 114th Science Formal.

The Science Formal is organized by and for the graduating class of undergraduate engineering students. It has evolved from a simple dance to a much-anticipated event for the graduating class. 

The oldest of Queen’s engineering student traditions, it came to life on Feb. 17, 1903 when, for the first time, graduating students in Applied Science staged an annual dinner with a dance as well.

Since 1897, the faculty had convened for a graduating dinner, but now music and two-steps were added to the mix. This effort, as the Queen’s Journal noted, set a dignified tone for future years. The evening, usually celebrated late in the fall or early in the winter term, was a final hurrah for young engineers on the cusp of their professional careers.

In the 1920s, the dinner dances, often dubbed “Science-at-Home,” took on themes. The graduating class was expected to conceive and execute a motif for their evening and the festivity was held in Grant Hall to accommodate this. It was the class of 1923 that first included more ambitious visions such as large structures and waterfalls. The more elaborate decorating started in 1927 with the Japanese Gardens theme, where a billowy canopy hung over decorations representing an ornate garden while “Ottawa’s premier orchestra” played.

Even through the Depression years, the formal continued to grow in grandeur, and as the years went on, the themes of the Science Formal often veered towards the fantastical. Students took on ambitious large-scale projects, incorporating engineering design skills and artistic creativity. Trolls, oracles, Viking ships and mythic cities all came from the young engineers’ imaginations and demanded that their construction skills catch up.

Nowadays, every member of the graduating year is expected to contribute a number of hours of labour to the project. Shortly before doors open for the main event, the public are invited to come tour the finished product, seeing the result of all that hard work. Visitors gain entrance by making a donation to the United Way.

[people and decorations at the Science Formal]
At the Science Formal, circa 1987
[people and decorations at the Science Formal][people and decorations at the Science Formal]