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Bringing science to the masses, virtually

The first virtual Science Rendezvous Kingston wins over learners and garners high engagement rates.

Science Rendezvous Kingston welcomed 29,000 virtual attendees from May 1-16, drawing in Kingston region residents and international audiences for a celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This year not only marked the 10th anniversary of the event, but the first year it was held virtually, after a cancellation due to COVID-19 last spring.

The theme for the Rendezvous was “STEAM Green,” which combined the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, and nature, with discussions ranging from water systems to climate change to Canadian wildlife. Participants could take their experience outside of the computer screen and engage in activities involving identifying plants and birds within their neighbourhoods and even conduct experiments in their own backyards.

With the online format came a lot of traffic, with over 20,000 visits to the Science Rendezvous Kingston website, and an average of 350 participants at every scheduled event, with nearly 20 times the number of viewers. Live talks were hosted by Queen’s researchers, grad students, and several special guests to help promote youth interest in STEAM. These live talks included topics such as ocean conservation and leadership, and provided interactive opportunities including an exploration of the night sky. Presenters included Peter May, President of Research Casting International, Connor Stone, PhD candidate in astrophysics and co-coordinator of the Queen’s Observatory, Jasveen Brar, STEM literacy advocate and conservationist, and Lindsey Carmichael, award-winning author and a member of the Faculty of Education’s 2020 Science Literacy Week Author-in-Residence Program.

Child's drawing of a scientist
A thank you drawing from Kindergarten student Emerson sent to the organizers of Science Rendezvous. (Submitted)

Additionally, participants were able to learn about important figures in STEM throughout the course of the event. With a special focus on inspiring young women in STEM, the event featured many female “innovators and influencers” that showcased members of the Queen’s Community, such as engineering faculty and graduate students Amy Wu, Charlotte Gibson, and Roshni Rainbow. There was also a special section devoted to famous women in paleontology and geology. Access to these resources is still available on the Science Rendezvous Kingston website.

“Virtual events are breaking down the barriers of place, cost, and time by offering a digital venue for anyone to connect, free registration, and on-demand content that attendees around the world can access,” says Lynda Colgan, Professor in the Faculty of Education and coordinator of Science Rendezvous Kingston. “The challenge for us is to balance the right registration experience, technology, event type, and sessions to bring people together in powerful and impactful ways.”

With the new frontier of an online forum came another addition to the unique experience Science Rendezvous Kingston offered this year. Two local high school students, Ben Black and Kye Hallam, have created an app called the STEMygk Exploratorium to help further engage youth in the Science Rendezvous experience. With two interactive environments available to players, Connections City and Space Base, there’s tons to explore, from fun minigames to interesting science facts. The apps are free and downloadable by visiting the Apple App store or the Google Play store.