by Pat Rediger Pat Rediger

More than 30,000 kids each year experience engineering and science camps through the University of Regina

Little did a group of University of Regina engineering students realize that when they developed a summer camp for kids more than 25 years ago, they were laying the foundation for a program that would engage more than 30,000 kids annually on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming.

That initial idea has grown to become EYES: Educating Youth in Engineering and Science. Not only does it deliver annual summer camps in an inclusive and safe space, but it has also expanded to provide satellite programs in other communities as well as on-reserve locations. The program also features workshops, all-girls camps, field trips, maker days and professional development for teachers.

“Our primary reach is in the summer and that’s where we have between 30 and 40 full-time undergraduate students and between five and seven high school students who assist with the program,” said Megan Moore, manager, engineering outreach. “During May and June, under normal circumstances, we conduct school workshops all over the province. In 2019, we did more than 18,000 km worth of travel.”

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science provides space for the summer camps and EYES works with community partners on delivering the program in local schools and community centres. The program has been delivered in communities such as Estevan, Weyburn and Swift Current as well as Indigenous communities including Kawacatoose, Ocean Man, Kahkewistahaw, Whitebear and Cote.

Moore says EYES places an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and it provides financial assistance to children for whom the camp fee is a barrier. It also provides free camps and workshops to selected community schools in Regina, which are situated in neighborhoods with low household incomes and a high Indigenous population. EYES also works with the Open Door Society to provide a weeklong camp for newcomers to Canada.

Although the university faculty is supportive of the program as it encourages students to consider STEM careers, EYES is self-supporting and relies on corporate support, donations and registrations for its operating costs. Moore says EYES also recognizes that every community is different and strives to ensure that as many students can participate in their programming as possible.

For Regina community schools, for example, Moore says EYES worked with the Regina Public Library to provide technical equipment and curriculum materials so teachers could sign out these materials through their library cards. Other communities may require corporate partners in order to deliver the camps.

“On-reserve camps may be completely sponsored in that community. We recognize that there may be barriers so we provide things like breakfast and lunch, and bring our tech out there so the kids can use them,” explained Moore.

Instructors develop programming

The program is targeted at students in Grades 2 through 9 and the programming varies per age group. The instructors can develop their own projects based upon a base curriculum, but typically students will be involved in creating their own experiments such as growing their crystals, creating forensic fingerprinting and developing marble rollercoasters.

When they start their program, the instructors will review their program goals, decide what they want the kids’ experiences to be like, and discuss their own strengths and weaknesses in developing a camp. It also means that each camp will be a unique experience for both the instructors and the participants.

When Pokémon hunting was at its height in 2019, an instructor adapted Pokémon cards into cards featuring different flora and fauna, which the kids had to find. They even got to battle each other, just like in the real game. Students also have the opportunity to dissect frogs, use 3D printers and place table tennis balls in garbage cans filled with liquid nitrogen to watch them explode.

“We take all of these projects and then make sure that they are applicable to real life,” said Moore. “It’s one thing to blow up a garbage can, but it’s another thing to attribute that experiment to exothermic explosions in Saskatchewan mining. We need to explain the importance of these explosions so when they go home they will understand how the cracks in stone allow miners to extract potash.”

“We take all of these projects and then make sure that they are applicable to real life.”

– Megan Moore, Manager, Engineering Outreach

Moore says she can personally relate to how the program impacts young people. She came from a rural community and attended a two-day, all-girls EYES camp, which helped spark her interest in STEM. Many student instructors attended EYES camps and have now come full circle in delivering the program to other kids. One instructor has been involved with the EYES for 13 years – starting as an elementary student at a day camp and eventually becoming an instructor.

“When we pitch summer work to the university students, one of the questions we always ask is who has attended an EYES camp. It’s always surprising to see at least a third of the students raise their hands that they have been EYES campers,” said Moore.

She adds that now that the program has been in existence for so long, one of the new priorities is to better determine the impact that EYES is having on STEM recruitment at the university. EYES camps help students go beyond traditional school programs such as chemistry and biology and delve into areas such as geology, geography, epidemiology and other science and engineering fields.

Benefitting more than kids

But it’s not just the kids who benefit from the EYES program. Moore says the undergraduate students learn skills like managing programs, conducting risk assessments and understanding safety concerns, which they will be able to use after they graduate in their professional lives.

SHCA members can support the program in several different ways. Moore says they are always looking for mentors who can (virtually) meet with the kids and discuss what they do. The kids will know very little about construction so the chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges with someone in the profession will be a rewarding experience for the students.

And, of course, EYES is always on the lookout for corporate sponsors for any members who would like to lend their financial support. The program is particularly interested in organizations that would be willing to sponsor a camp in an Indigenous community. 

For more information on EYES, visit