Sometimes in the midst of memorizing biological pathways and solving quantum mechanics problems it can be easy to forget just how fun and awe-inspiring science is.
Many of us studying science in university were drawn to it by admiration for the world and learning how it works. I’ve been fascinated by many scientific concepts throughout my life: Dinosaurs! Subatomic particles! Brains! This fascination surely had a lot to do with my eventual decision to pursue a degree in chemistry and psychology. Yet somewhere between problem sets and midterms, this excitement can start to fade. Who has time to read Wikipedia articles about obscure animals when there’s another chemical reaction to memorize?
Children are the perfect role models for enjoying science for its own sake, and fittingly last weekend’s Science Rendezvous event was designed to include the younger set. They are, after all, “uninhibitedly curious and always prepared for new opportunities to learn,” according to astronaut Chris Hadfield in an introductory video for the event.
U of T professor Dwayne Miller started Science Rendezvous seven years ago to promote the research happening on campus in order to create interest in science and technology – both in young people who may want to join the field and in the general public. The event now takes place in 30 different cities, and last year’s U of T edition had over 10,000 visitors of all ages.
The main attraction was the Science Carnival on St. George Street — closed between Harbord and College — and in nearby buildings. Dozens of departments and student groups hosted interactive stations showing off their accomplishments as well as basic scientific principles. And for those with a sweet tooth, there was lots of ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen.
Science Rendezvous was a great opportunity for me to get excited about science again after a month of memorizing it in preparation for exams. Some cool things I saw: Blue Sky Solar Racing demoed their B-7 solar vehicle, which cruised down Russel Street with a trail of excited children chasing it the whole way. There was a robot that threw Frisbees. The chemistry department wrapped pop bottles filled with dry ice and water in plastic bags to set off eye-popping explosions of plastic due to the exothermic reaction.
It was fun to see small children getting excited about techniques and procedures that we take for granted at the university level: I saw one young girl proudly clutching a falcon tube containing an extraction of her own DNA as she walked down the street. Even before the festival was winding down, I overheard kids all around me begging their parents to bring them back next year. We could probably all take some inspiration from these children: what we do at school is fascinating, important, and fun.
What gets you excited about your major and how do you remember to have fun with it? Tweet me @lifeatuoft!