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Sparking curiosity

Science Rendezvous is a free event and is open to children and their families. Join in the fun at the Rogers K-ROCK Centre and The Tragically Hip Way on Saturday, May 9 from 10 am to 3 pm.

This Saturday, downtown Kingston’s K-ROCK Centre will transform into a hive of science activity, complete with bats, bugs, snakes, robots and even a giant walk-through colon for Science Rendezvous Kingston.

Science Rendezvous immerses children from the community in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities that spark their curiosity Queen’s researchers are a fixture at the annual event and this year Tara Diesbourg (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Gillian Mackey (Chemistry), and Alvine Kamaha (Physics) will each host booths aimed at getting kids excited about STEM subjects.

“Children engage with topics early on and sometimes they will develop a negative attitude towards STEM subjects as early as the third grade,” says Lynda Colgan, Director of the Queen’s Community Outreach Centre and the woman behind Science Rendezvous’s roaring success in Kingston. “Science Rendezvous is a chance to give children an informal experience with science and stimulate their curiosity at the same time.”

Science Rendezvous events take place across Canada. Last year, Kingston’s Science Rendezvous had over 50 stations, 300 volunteers and over 3,750 visitors – making it the largest in Canada.

For Tara Diesbourg and her team in the Biomechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Queen’s, their booth is inspired by this summer’s Pan-Am Games and will feature five stations which relate to different events at the Games.

Kids will be able to test their strength in a weightlifting simulation, which will show them a measure of their muscle activity. At a jump-themed station, participants can use a force plate to see how high they jump according to force – an important skill if you’re a basketball player or track and field athlete.

“We’re really hoping to captivate the kids who visit our booth and take part in our stations,” says Ms. Diesbourg, a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Our team of ten have created some cool activities for the kids, including an accelerometer attached to a tennis racket to test how fast they can swing it, and a rowing machine so they can measure the force exerted by their hands and feet.”

Gillian Mackey, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, has been making chemistry magic for the past five years at Science Rendezvous. This year, her booth will show kids safe chemistry experiments they can try at home.

Visitors to Ms. Mackey’s booth will see how  a solution of vinegar and salt can make a copper penny shine like new, and how that same solution can coat the surface of a screw in copper. Outside the K-ROCK Centre, kids will be able to blow bouncy bubbles and watch them bob away.

“I can’t wait to work with the kids and see how energetic they are,” says Ms. Mackey. “Each year, I’m astonished by their high energy and how excited they are to see chemistry at work.”

Taking a break from studying particle astrophysics, Alvine Kamaha is preparing a selection of displays to show the fun in physics.

This year, Ms. Kamaha has chosen two displays: a cloud chamber and a Kelvin water dropper – two physics experiments that can be recreated at home. The Kelvin water dropper uses falling water to generate voltage sparks and a cloud chamber shows signs of ionizing radiation as condensation is produced where charged particles have interacted.

“We chose these experiments because we wanted something that would attract the kids, would be simple to understand, and would be something they could recreate at home as we’ll give them two sheets with instructions,” says Ms. Kamaha. “They’ll also have the chance to build their own experiments in the booth that they can take home with them.”