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The next generation of scientists

By Will Sloan

Akin Olukunle-Ojo

Fourth-year physics student Akin Olukunle-Ojo instructing young scientists at Ryerson’s Eureka day camp.

Take some vinegar. Put it in a beaker and let it fizz a bit. Then tilt it over a flaming candle. You’ll see that the carbon dioxide will pour over the candle and put out the flame. To the naked eye, the flame would seem to have gone out by itself. Such is the nature of carbon dioxide.

This is one of the experiments that Akin Olukunle-Ojo, a fourth-year Ryerson medical physics student, did as an instructor at Ryerson’s Eureka science camp. “It’s having the chance to just wow people,” said Olukunle-Ojo. “Some people are just used to seeing things, but the kids are fresh. They see it and say, ‘Wow, how does that happen?’ And I get to explain.”

Wrapping up its fifth summer at Ryerson, the Eureka camp introduces children ages seven to 12 to science in a fun, hands-on way. A joint project between the faculties of Science and Engineering and Architectural Science, the program alternates engaging experiments/exercises with recreational activities (including swimming, dodgeball, soccer and volleyball). It runs in four one-week sessions, and each week includes a Science/Engineering Olympiad on the last day.

“The idea is to catch people at a young age, and get them really excited about science,” said Emily Agard, director of science communication, outreach and public engagement. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for kids to do something in the summertime that combines science and sports—a mind and body engagement.”

“It’s great chance for kids to just be kids, but also to work in a real lab,” said Olukunle-Ojo. “I tell them, ‘Alright, we’re going to work with this, and I’m trusting you to do this.’ Then they do it, and I always say, ‘Good job,’ and they said, ‘Wow, you trusted me to use an actual chemistry lab and actual experiments.’”

The program is made available to children with financial need through the donations of community members. The program is instructed entirely by Ryerson students from the science and engineering departments. “They get to learn science communication,” said Agard. “They have fun with the kids, because the kids are usually quite a lot of fun to be around.”

For Olukunle-Ojo, who completed his fourth summer as an instructor, it’s the children that make the program. “I enjoy coming back each year and seeing the same kids. I’ve watched a couple of kids grow. That’s always one of the greatest feelings, just seeing them get older. They remember things you’ve taught them.

“I feel like it’s important they see that science is everywhere. It’s not just math equations—you can experience science every day.”

For more information on Ryerson’s summer day camps, go to www.ryersonsummerdaycamps.com.