Dr. Blake Martin Ontario Sparks Mentorship Session

On Thursday, September 17,  four lucky high school students were given the opportunity to spend an hour chatting to Dr. Blake Martin, a York University neuroscientist who studies biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology and motor learning and control as they relate to dance.

Check out what Shaharzad Wali, a Grade 12 Ontario Ambassador, had to say about the session!

I think I now irrevocably associate peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies with Sparks Sessions.

Kidding. (Not really.) Let’s backtrack a little.

On Thursday the 17th I once again made the 1 hour drive to Toronto on Science-Expo business. I’d been to a Sparks Session before, back in May, and I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t help myself from applying again. This time, five Ontario Ambassadors including myself were scheduled to sit and chat with Dr. Blake Martin, who holds – get this – a PhD in Kinesiology, a Graduate Diploma in Neuroscience, a B.F.A. and M.A. in dance, and a bachelor of education. Besides teaching in York University’s Dance Science Certificate program, he speaks provincially, nationally and internationally on issues related to yoga, arts, the brain, anatomy, and classroom management.

To meet and freely ask questions to a person this rounded in their knowledge was truly an exciting experience. As usual, I’d done my reading prior to the session, and was pleasantly surprised to find neuroscience as part of the picture! This was, admittedly, my reasons for making the stretch to Jimmy’s Coffee downtown on a school night (aside from their peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies—the joke is, I ate one during my first Session and I still haven’t forgotten how good they were, but I digress!). However, very soon into the casual coffee-time Session I realized those who spread themselves over many interests don’t exactly mark beginnings and endings. Knowledge, rather than being organized in one’s mind by headings and subheadings, is perpetually fluid. Dr. Martin spoke about neuroscience simultaneously with kinesiology, movement, and then with dance, creativity, and combined the whole in a discussion about modern education. I found it inspiring how one person was able to pursue so many things, and in the end, bring them together in a harmonious amalgam and still have the energy to talk about each at length and large. The open, natural drift of conversation was something I really enjoyed (and it also enabled me to bombard the mentor with questions).

Dr. Blake was engaging all throughout. And the session lasted over two hours! As a neuroscientist he was extremely passionate about matters of the brain and cognition, something I really appreciated. What I ultimately obtained from this session was not exactly practical knowledge. Rather, I bettered an abstract understanding of how to approach my goals and passions. Through the sheer enthusiasm Dr. Martin imbued in every word he spoke about the mind and body, or neural processes, or styles and approaches to education, I understood what a faith in your passion for your career, or interest, looks like. I daresay it impacted my plans for my future, in reaffirming my love for neuroscience. All in all, I’d call this Session a success.

Here’s what some other attendees had to say:

“I loved it! It was very cozy and comfortable with just 6 people sitting around a table. I loved the informality of the meeting and especially Dr. Martin, who was awesome.”

“I thought it was very inspiring to meet someone who was able to truly follow his passions, and continues to do his job because he genuinely enjoys it.

“It was amazing to meet someone so passionate about their work. Dr. Martin’s research interests are fascinating.”

Jennifer Stinson Ontario Sparks Mentorship Session

On Thursday, August 20 from 3:00-4:00pm five lucky high school students were given the opportunity to get an exclusive tour of SickKids’ new research tower and spend an hour with Dr. Jennifer Stinson, PhD, RN-EC, CPNP, a Nurse Clinician-Scientist and an Advanced Practice Nurse at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Check out what Sunny Jeong, one of the lucky five selected students had to say about the session!

Sick Kids Hospital exteriors on Elizabeth St in Toronto , shot on Feb 17 2013.(Vince Talotta/Toronto Star)

To some, the idea of research can be abstract and confusing. However, to others, researching is driven through passion and done to have a better understanding on an idea or topic. I was one of the fortunate students—interested in the world of STEM—to have met an esteemed researcher who works with her team in her lab to comprehend and improve patient care through e-health and m-health applications. Dr. Jennifer Stinson is a clinical scientist for the SickKids Hospital, whose focus is to improve the management of chronic pain and other symptoms of young children through the use of technology.

When I first heard of the Sparks Session, I instantly became interested because it was a chance to meet a leading professor, scientist, and researcher whom I shared similar interests with. Prior to the Sparks Session, I read Dr. Stinson’s publications, in order to have a better understanding of what she studied. Her works opened my eyes in seeing potential developments that e-health and m-health advancements can implicate in the medical world. In addition, I truly admired how she was able to orient her research ideas with the current generation of young children.

When I arrived at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, I was eager to meet Dr. Stinson and her team to ask them questions that I wanted to ask. The Research Centre set a professional ambience that echoed the state of the art research projects that were being pursued. And when the four other attendees and myself were escorted into a conference room, we were happily welcomed by Dr. Stinson, and her team. They prepared a presentation for us and explained to us what they had been working on. To have her research thoroughly explained to was an inspiring experience. I was captivated by their work on the Pain Squad app, iCanCope with Pain website, and even the Medi robot. I am convinced that these are ingenious ideas are going to help improve patients’ quality of life during difficult times.

Although we only met for one hour, Dr. Stinson and her team have inspired me in many levels. They sparked my interest in the field of developing e-health applications that have the potential to improve the quality of patient care. They helped me understand that while it is important to find and develop the “unknown” within the STEM fields, it is also important to understand the more humane perspective of things. Dr. Stinson and her team are continuously trying to improve patients’ self-management skills in the most convenient and motivating methods. And, I am so happy to have received the opportunity to learn about it.

Science Expo Ambassador Summit

By Ruth Chen (Henry Wise Wood High School), AB Ambassador

Several photos from the summit.
Several photos from the summit.

The Science Expo Summit was a great opportunity for me to meet the other Calgary ambassadors, as well as Janica and Lauren – Marketing Director and Co-Chair!

We began with some icebreakers, which didn’t only turn out to be fun, but also helped us learn about each other’s hobbies and personalities. My personal favorite part of the summit was the workshop on public speaking. Paula Blackmore-White was an amazing speaker herself and offered very insightful tips and reinforced classic techniques. I’ve heard numerous presentations on public speaking prior to this one, but what she had to offer really clicked with me. Some of the tips that stuck with me the most included the power posture, which was one technique I had never heard of, videotaping yourself when rehearsing and using silence to emphasize important points. It was also nice to get to know Sophie and hear her tips on what sorts of activities youth can get involved in during high school, such as SHAD Valley and volunteering at various places. Our short break was also a great opportunity for us to mingle with each other and gave me a chance to get to chat with Sophie about the specific questions I had. The food was definitely a plus.

Last but not least, I was able to really understand my role as an ambassador through the training session and get excited about the neat things we’ll be able to do throughout the year. Overall, I felt that the science expo was really enjoyable and worthwhile to attend!

Ontario Ambassador Summit

By Chinmayee Gidwani and Malindu Danthanarayana, ON Ambassadors


Monday July 26, 2015 was the day where young and bright minds from all across Ontario pooled into one gnarly room, officially kicking off the Ontario chapter of the Science Expo Ambassadors Program for 2015. With just one short of 40 ambassadors, it was a captivating experience to see what the summit had brought together – unique, like-minded individuals with unbelievable potential. As each and every one of us listened to the charisma in the opening introductions from Stephanie Chan, Kaitlyn Yong, and Susie Pan, gears were turning and sparking as everyone in that room was growing more and more restless to ignite change on a whole new level. As time passed by with a couple of friendly ice breakers using pink and orange sticky notes to learn ourselves a little better, the summit moved on to the more memorable part of the session, the sound design challenge. Divided into teams and using only our wit with some simple household materials, ambassadors were required to design a cardboard box that would prove to be the best at insulating sound produced by a phone. Believe it or not, the results were quite peculiar from what we expected them to be, which we can all agree foreshadows a new, momentous year for the Science Expo Ambassadors Program jam-packed with fun and new impact.

After a few interesting games and challenges, the ambassadors were brought up to date with Science Expo’s mission; to empower youth and build connections. We learned just how incredible and vast this organization is. From British Columbia, to Alberta, to Ontario, there are about 10, 000 members in this organization. What started out as a small presentation in Guelph became a nation-wide organization dedicated to reaching out and showing youth what they are capable of.

We’re quite excited to begin the ambassador program, as it gives us an amazing opportunity to get involved with Science Expo. Aside from gaining leadership experience, we also get to meet and work with people who have a passion for science, and we stand to learn so much. Above all, we look forward to contributing to this incredible organization and making a difference.

SAP Vancouver Coding Workshop & Office Tour

Talveen Gadhri, BC Ambassador 

On July 8th, I had the honour of attending a coding workshop hosted by SAP, a multinational corporation that is proud to make leading enterprise software. Thanks to Vivek, the chair of Science Expo BC and an intern at SAP Vancouver, as well as the Science Expo team, the “Intro to Web Apps” workshop was made available for all the BC ambassadors. The “Intro to Web Apps” workshop was truly AMAZING and an AWESOME learning experience. As an avid programmer, I was able to leave the workshop with not one, but a number of new skills, as well as new knowledge.

What did we (the ambassadors) do at the workshop? To start off, the staff and volunteers were extremely helpful and kind throughout the entire workshop. The day started off with a basic and brief overview of HTML coding, including the main tags present in a HTML document, presented by a SAP volunteer. Next up, we were all introduced to databases, and learned to use SQL (completely new to me) to talk to the database. This was my favourite part because I learned something new that I could take from the workshop with me!

Using the acronym “CRUD” (Create, Update, Read, and Delete), all of the ambassadors inserted their first name, last name, age, and favourite colour into their own database, to have it stored for later (Create). Once that was done, we were instructed to add other ambassadors into our databases as well (Update). Once we had around 5 people in each of our own databases, we were able to use SQL to read our data (Read). In other words, we were able to search up the number of people who are younger than 16 or like the colour red, or have the last name out of the ones that we had in our database. We then learned how to remove people from our databases (Delete)

We were later introduced to data visualization and the star of the show, Lumira, SAP’s own data visualization software! After the tour of Lumira’s features and ability of creating astounding data visualization graphs and maps, the volunteers at SAP took the BC ambassadors team for a truly exclusive tour of SAP’s Vancouver office. We started off by entering the lobby and moved our way into the basement. We were introduced to a large number (no way I could count them all) servers situated in their own secured cabinets. One of our tour guides told us that each box/server was worth $250 000. $250 000 for one box! With all these servers, there are wires going here and there. The wires had been strategically bound up and placed along other bundles across the ceiling and walls which kept the place much more organized and neat. Our tour guides told us that there was also air-conditioning in the basement to prevent the servers from becoming overheated.

After the basement portion of our tour, we got to know a bit about the facilities available to employees at the office. For one, they had a “bike room”, where employees could safely lock up their bikes that they came to work on, or even rent a bike during the time they were on their break for a quick ride down the street. SAP Vancouver also had a mini gym in their office, where employees could take a break to break a sweat. In addition, SAP Vancouver also has a garden team! When employees aren’t behind a computer screen or drinking coffee, they might just be in the garden. They grow everything from herbs to potatoes. When it’s harvest time, all the employees have the privilege of taking home their dream tomato, carrot, radish, or some other vegetable!

We were moved into the cubicles of the office. The walls on the floor had writable and erasable walls! We were also told that the floors were given a theme, which is part of the renovation of the office. The top most floor is known as the “sky” (made up of names of trees and leaves), the second/middle floor is the “sea” or “ocean” (made up of names of sea creatures), and the bottom floor is the “land”. Therefore, the whole building was organized by names like “otter” and names of leaves which correspond to the rooms on a floor. For example, “otter” is a name that would be on a door on the second floor. That concluded our tour, which I found to be the most exciting part of the workshop. The tour allowed the ambassadors and me to see the office through the eyes of a new employee. If I worked at SAP, I would definitely love all the amenities available, as well as the friendly atmosphere of the magnificent office!
All in all, sadly, the time wrapped up our tour and workshop. But on the bright side (hey, I’m a positive person), I surely had a great time, and I’m more than a gazillion percent sure that all the other BC ambassadors had an awesome time as well. After this workshop, I can’t wait for the next workshops which I’m sure will be just as impressive and enjoyable, if not more, as SAP Vancouver’s “Intro to Web Apps” workshop!

SAP Presents: Coding Workshop for BC High School Students

Flora Feng, BC Ambassador

SAP, a multinational software company, hosted an introductory coding workshop. Eighteen high school students were invited to learn the basics of coding at SAP Canada’s Vancouver office. As a stranger to computer coding and web apps, the workshop provided me with a chance to have a first glance of web page design and database. Since I’ve never had an opportunity before to learn about web app or database, it was a valuable experience to get an introduction and to learn the basics about the area.


The workshop started with a session about web page creation. We learned the basic HTML tags through the process of creating our first web page. Following the step by step tutorial by the instructor, we were able to create headings and paragraphs, and insert links, tables and lists. In the second part of the workshop focusing on database, we learned to create, read, update and delete a database. We also had a chance to look at the company’s data visualisation software, Lumira, and learned about its functions and main customers of the product.

The last part of the workshop, the tour aroundthe office and the data center, was a highlight, giving me an idea of what the work environment is like for software developers in SAP. The afternoon in SAP was a worthy experience and I definitely gained some insights about future career options. I do hope to get more opportunities to attend more workshops like this and I recommend everyone to participate in them!

An Afternoon at Architech

On July 17, our SE Ontario ambassadors were invited to an exclusive Lunch-and-Learn session at Architech’s office in downtown Toronto. Here is what Shaharzad Wali, a Grade 12 student and Science Expo Ontario ambassador, had to say about her experience. 


On July 17th, at roughly 11:30 am, I made the one hour trip to Architech in Toronto under an overcast sky. Architech is a digital experiences studio that specializes in software ideation and development. Foteini Agrafioti, Architech’s Chief Innovation Officer and a Science Expo mentor, had invited 10 SE Ambassadors to a Lunch-and-Learn – that is, an informative afternoon listening to and talking with the team, plus free food!

Among the group were developers, engineers, scientists, and a whole slew of bright ideas. Once we’d entered the office and gratefully gathered our lunch (the classic Mexican), we pooled into a meeting room, sat ourselves on chairs around a long table, and listened to some mini presentations. Foteini went first, describing her life in Greece before moving to Canada as a student at UofT, her deep, passionate interest in computer engineering and biometrics, and the invention for which she was named Inventor of the Year 2012 by UofT, the Nymi wristband (a biometric device that identifies individuals using all but their heartbeat – as a devoted biology student, I found the fact that we all have different heartbeats fascinating). What particularly caught me was the process behind the invention of the Nymi. It was with great persistence that this invention came to be. Despite having spoken with her before, I find genuine stories of dedication never grow old, especially when those stories tell of such success.

Next came some pending projects of Architech’s: a software that pinpoints where you’re looking on a given screen by tracking your face, eye, and iris movements; a face recognition software that scans your visage, determines your gender/age/ethnicity based on certain characteristics and shows you an ad tailored to your demographic; and finally, a sneak peek at Architech’s Face of Toronto project, which will debut at Nuit Blanche Toronto in October (check it out!). Some of us were able to experience the iris tracking and face recognition software firsthand; as per their WIP status, the results were both amazing and entertaining.

We then visited the team’s lab. The room was littered with computers, wires, and gadgets. To be honest, I’d be surprised if it weren’t messy (beneath the chaos is a work of art, as the saying goes). Here, anyone who hadn’t tried out the projects above could do so (without being under the watchful gaze of the entire group). I particularly appreciated the chance to sit down with the team members to discuss their work one-on-one.

One of the important things I learned was that it’s worth battling logic if you have an idea worth spreading. It’s important to know how to be practical, but it’s just as important to know a golden chance when you see one. You’d be surprised how many successes are prefaced with faith, in both yourself and your creative mind. As Emerson once said, trust thyself.

All in all, great way to spend the afternoon. I’d gladly visit again.

Comments from our other attendees: 

“I like how there were so many employees that took out their time to just do a presentation for us. The ending was my favourite part where we had the opportunity to go into the lab and got some hands on experience. The introduction idea was also neat, I thought it was fascinating to hear about everyone’s background and where they had completed their education”

“Until now, I have never had the opportunity to experience to visit a company that specializes in technology and engineering. In fact, those are the two STEM subjects that I have the least experience and knowledge in. It was an absolute joy to learn and experiment with the products Architect had created. (That was my most favorite part!) This session has opened my mind and eyes and caused me to see the greater possibility in the world. In addition, the staff were friendly and everyone seemed to enjoy their work. This made me consider a career in the field of engineering or technology. Lastly, this experience gave me the chance to become friends with the other Science Expo Ambassadors. Overall, it was a wonderful experience!”

Summer ’13 Opportunity #10: Ontario Science Centre Science School

What is this?

Are you a Grade 11 student looking for a challenge? 
Become a part of the Science Centre for a semester of Grade 12!

Earn SCIENCE and MATH credits. Explore new science and technology. Be inspired for life.

Spend an enriching semester at the Ontario Science Centre Science School
and earn Grade 12 University Preparation science and mathematics credits!

Benefit from a solid learning experience, including:

  • Unique learning environment
  • Small, informal classes
  • Experienced, enthusiastic, imaginative teachers

The Ontario Science Centre Science School presents students with an opportunity to gain University Preparation science credits during an enriched semester at the Ontario Science Centre. Students acquire a solid academic background in classes that are small and informal with experienced, enthusiastic and imaginative teachers. Science School labs are housed in the heart of the Science Centre.

 Where can I find more information?


Summer ’13 Opportunity #9: Waterloo Engineering Shadow Program

What is this?

Attend classes, labs and tutorials with a current Waterloo Engineering student. Find out why they chose Waterloo and what their experiences have been.

You’ll be matched up with one of their student ambassadors who will contact you to talk about your interests (both academic and extra-curricular), and schedule a date and time for you to visit campus.

Find out more about the program, and sign up for a shadow day!

Visit the Engineering Student Ambassadors website for student ambassador profiles, additional shadow program details and other upcoming events.

Where can I find more information?


Summer ’13 Opportunity #8: Project Euler

What is this?

Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.

The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

Who are the problems aimed at?

The intended audience include students for whom the basic curriculum is not feeding their hunger to learn, adults whose background was not primarily mathematics but had an interest in things mathematical, and professionals who want to keep their problem solving and mathematics on the edge.

Can anyone solve the problems?

The problems range in difficulty and for many the experience is inductive chain learning. That is, by solving one problem it will expose you to a new concept that allows you to undertake a previously inaccessible problem. So the determined participant will slowly but surely work his/her way through every problem.

Where can I find more information?