And the Golden Beaker goes to …

Sunalta School’s Grade 6 Class!

Congratulations again to Calgary’s Sunalta School who were today named Atomic 13 Ingenuity Challenge Champions! Presenting them with the Golden Beaker was Beakerhead Co-founder Jay Ingram, who surprisingly was upstaged by six-graders Finn and Sabina who emceed the all-school and media presentation.

Sunalta School emcees and headmaster. Photo by Denise Kitagawa

Emcees Sabina and Finn with Principal Trevor Barkley and Teacher Karen Anderson and Jay Ingram. Photo by Denise Kitagawa

Kudos to the 46 Grade 6 students who competed amongst 8,000 Alberta-based students from 108 schools.

Grade 6 receive the Golden Beaker. Photo by Denise Kitagawa
Grade 6 receive the Golden Beaker. Photo by Denise Kitagawa

Ted Harrison Grade 8 Students Win Beakerhead Ingenuity Challenge

Reprinted from Calgary Board of Education blog.

Congratulations to Grade 8 students at Ted Harrison School on their award-winning submission to the Atomic 13 Ingenuity Challenge, an annual creative design competition that is part of Beakerhead. Beakerhead is a week-long smash-up of art, science and engineering.

Students from Ted Harrison won first-place for their project, “Light Juggler,” a stunning light painting combining the art and science of photography, light and optics. Their challenge was to take a large roll of aluminum foil to collaboratively design and build creative projects based on the theme “things are not what they seem.”

Jay Ingram, co-host of Discovery Channel’s science show, Daily Planet for 16 years, presented them with the Golden Beaker Award, and then spent time meeting with all of the design teams to discuss their creative processes.

To create “Light Juggler,” students thought carefully about Beakerhead’s mission to combine science, technology, and art. They engineered a globe of spinning foil, attached LEDs and glow-sticks, composed and framed the set, and adjusted the camera settings to achieve a long exposure capturing light in a darkened space. The student in the photo was then dressed in aluminum foil, and was photographed in a series of images and test shots. For each image, the ball was spun, and the student remained as still as possible as the photo was being taken. Multiple exposures were taken before achieving the one that would become “Light Juggler” – creating something beautiful out of something physically impossible, and therefore, not what it seems.

Grade 8 teachers viewed Beakerhead as an opportunity to kick-start the school year by inviting students to show curiosity and creativity in their learning. Through their Beakerhead experiences, and participation in the Atomic 13 Ingenuity Challenge, students appeared more confident in their abilities to explore and discover possibilities for learning that exist beyond the school walls. “Light Juggler” is evidence of the power of exploration, experimentation, and the freedom to create in an environment co-designed by teachers and students.

Video-Conferencing in Space

Last month, over 175 classrooms across Canada and the USA took part in a live video-conference with Commander John B. Herrington. While two lucky rural schools had the chance to be on camera with the Commander, students from everywhere also had the opportunity to have their questions answered live using the #askHerrington and he shared his personal journey in becoming a space explorer, from adventurous teen to mathematician, engineer, test pilot and outdoorsman.  The world’s first aboriginal astronaut!

Here are snippets of the hour-long conversation the Commander had with schools.
 Inline image 1
“Yes, there is a height limit. The limit is based on how the astronauts will fit in the space vehicles and suits. The maximum height an astronaut can be to fit the equipment is 6’4”. There is actually a limit on how short an astronaut can be as well: if an astronaut is shorter than 5′, they won’t be able to fit into and use the equipment properly.” ~ Commander Herrington–

Inline image 4

“Extra-vehicular activities, or spacewalks, take about 7 hours – 9 hours from start to finish, including putting on and taking off gear. On the space walk, the astronauts can only take 32 ounces of water, and have nothing to eat! They spend the entire workday in their space suit (and have to wear a diaper)!” ~ Commander Herrington

Watch the video

Beakerhead partnered with the following partners to make this conversation happen:

Partners In Research (PIR) is a registered Canadian charity with the mission of helping Canadians understand the significance, accomplishments and promise of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research as well as promoting STEM as fields of discovery and study for Canadian students. 

Power to Choose Aboriginal Youth Programs, powered by the Alberta Women’s Science Network (AWSN), are all about encouraging Aboriginal Youth Grade 7-12 with the power of career choice through mentorship with aboriginal scientists and ways-of-knowing science programs. 

Cisco Systems is a worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate.

Beakerhead Summer Intensive for High School Students

An enthusiastic group of high schools students will be busy this July designing, prototyping and building a collaborative project to be presented at Little Big Street. Students will earn high school credits, but this course is anything but your average summer school experience. Students will have the opportunity to work with a team of Beakerhead mentors, including artists, engineers, scientists, fabricators and designers, who will help them bring their ideas to life.

Adults Only Night: Food & Chemistry

Open late – and no kids allowed*! The second Thursday of the month we’re open for extended hours, from 6:00 pm – 10 :00 pm, just for adults.

Chemistry is by far the tastiest of the sciences. From flavour to fats and sugar to sautéing, there’s no shortage of delicious science to explore. Try your hand at molecular gastronomy, or maybe learn the art of mixology. Get hands-on with food science, and prepare to discover that the kitchen and the lab are not as different as they seem. Yum…

As always, you’ll have access to a licensed bar service and music throughout the evening. TOP TIP: Skip the queue. Buy tickets online in advance.

*Adults Only Night is a licensed event and only those 18 years of age and older are able to attend. All visitors must provide valid government issued photo ID. Regular admission rates are in effect.

BP A+ Plus..

Imagine you have this great idea; an idea that would drastically reduce energy consumption. You’d be shouting it from the rooftops right?

Now imagine you are a group of, say, 10 year olds in a rural Grade 5 classroom. Does it seem a little bit more complicated now?

So what are a bunch of groovy innovative students and teachers to do when they have a brilliant idea and little in the way of funding…they apply for a grant through BP Canada’s A+ for Energy program – that’s what! And Beakerhead got the opportunity to join BP employees in judging the finalists last week.

Our group was tasked with only five projects to evaluate but each and every one of them were outstanding in their own right! I can’t imagine the mind blowing awesomeness being passed around the room as a whole. Every BP employee that judged in previous years claimed it to be the highlight of their job, including Stephen Willis, President and Chairman, BP Canada, who dropped by just to be a part of the ‘energy’ of the room.

It was so hard to say “this one” and “not that one” and we were total newbies! Mucho impressive BP Canada! Thanks for the invite – we are super stoked to have been included in the mix. Dare we say it made for some ‘good chemistry’?

By Stacey Ibach

Cybermentor Science Rendezvous

Do you like hands-on science challenges? Want to spend a fun-filled afternoon with other girls like you, designing and creating an amazing invention, with the help of cool female science mentors?

Cybermentor will be joining with Science Rendezvous to host a hands-on workshop for girls where they will build a cool installation to be featured at Beakerhead this September!

WHO:     Any girls aged 11-18. Friends are welcome!
WHEN:   Saturday, May 10th, 12:30-4:30pm
WHERE: University of Calgary
COST:     none

*The first 30 girls to register receive a free Science Rendezvous t-shirt!*

Contact the Cybermentor Team at or 403-220-8283.

Can my parents come?
Parents are welcome to either stay and participate in the workshop, or leave and pick their daughter(s) up at 4:30pm. Full supervision will be provided during the workshop by trained program leaders.
 Directions and Parking
Parking is available at the University of Calgary in Lots 10 and 11 ($6 single entry fee). The University of Calgary is also accessible by public transit. Detailed directions will be sent to all registered participants prior to the workshop.

Imagineers go imagining this summer

The beauty, the wonder, the total fun that is the catapult! This ancient mainstay of the battlefield has been around since Julius Caesar veni, vidi, vici’d but this summer, kids across Calgary will get the chance to lob a load in the name of science.

Partnering with Beakerhead, the Imagineers summer camp at the TELUS Spark Science Centre will give your budding builder a chance to learn some construction basics using real materials and real tools. Campers will start off with the essentials and practice their design and blueprint skills – not to mention a healthy dose of time-management – on smaller projects before coming together in teams to create their very own siege engine. Working through the design, testing and building phase is all part of collaboration, creation and construction – handy skills for this hands-on adventure!

And it doesn’t end at camp. Campers will have a chance to watch their work in action at the Catharsis Catapult Competition on Sunday, September 14th as part of Beakerhead. For five days, Calgarians can interact with, be challenged by and immerse themselves in a dynamic smash up of art, science and engineering. If it involves high-flying melons and spectacular splatters, what’s not to love??

If you’re between 6 and 8 years of age – or if you know someone who is – sign up for the Imagineers and let’s see what happens when we give these engineers and artists of the future access to some solid skills, sturdy materials and a lot of fruit.

Click here for more details from TELUS Spark

by Tara Klager


Get ready for the three E’s

Forget about the three R’s, Alberta Education is putting a new spin on not only what students should learn, but what they could learn. Of course no school would leave out reading, writing and arithmetic, but the new framework hopes to develop engaged thinkers, ethical citizens and an entrepreneurial spirit. Voila! There you have it – the three E’s.

Why, you ask, alter a time-tested system? Well, as Alberta Education points out, the world is changing. With a constantly evolving market place the hope is to guide the potential of a child without constraint and without boundaries placed around their potential. This visioning process started back in 2009 in an open dialogue with Albertans about their hopes and dreams for the future of education in Alberta, Canada. It wasn’t necessarily about being competitive in an academic way, but more about how to support each individual child reach his or her full potential. By doing so, and helping them to learn in an engaged way, this Canadian province comes out ahead of the game as a whole.

Albertans want the medical systems to get better, business systems to keep up with the times, so it makes sense to want education systems to evolve as well.

A province filled with innovative thinkers? Oh yeah, we’ll take one of those! Say, do you want to see what the three Es look like? Check out the 2014 Beakerhead school programs!

By Stacey Ibach

Art explains Chaos Theory

The conversation went like this:

Son (age 8): “Mommy, why don’t they just run from the tornado?”

Me: “They don’t know what path the tornado will go.”

Son: “Then why do they always hit the same spot? Isn’t it going along the same path every time? ”

This conversation blossomed into prediction which is an important aspect of science to grasp early. But what of the science you can’t predict? Explaining Chaos Theory to young children is a poetic experience. We have certainly explored the never ending patterns of fractals. In fact, outside of counting their toes it was the first math concept my children encountered. To explain chaos is to open their imagination to surprise and wonder; to see science as nonlinear and unexpected. However for them to experience this while trying to control the outcome is tricky. Especially since explosions are not allow in my kitchen and I was far too tired to explain the stock market.

So we used art instead. Using a small straw they tried blowing a small spot of ink placed in the exact same spot on the page. Could they make it follow the same path with each attempt? It was with great regret I did not put a splatter screen opposite the artists. However the results were beautiful and my six year old declared it could not be done “because my spit goes different places every time”!

by Stacey Ibach 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.41.00 AM

A computer ‘bug’ you want to get!

What do bugs, computer parts and a hammer have in common? Absolutely nothing. It’s winter in Calgary, Canada, and we’re studying insects. With the completion of all the book work, my kids and I found ourselves in the middle of a deep freeze and not one insect to be found. This was very sad indeed for three young boys. I needed to cheer them up. I know…an art project! Bugs are pretty easy when it comes to art, right? I suggested clay and water colours. They yawned. I brought up cardboard boxes and giant painted bugs. They asked for a snack. Clearly I wasn’t hitting the “sparkle explosion.” Then I remembered this great little table at TELUS Spark Science Centre. They had taken apart computers and you could glue them together to make figures of any kind. So why not a bug?! I rummaged through the computer hardware graveyard that is our garage (hazards of a software engineer in the family) and score! I handed them a pair of safety goggles and a hammer. Add a glue gun to that picture and you have three very happy kids. The sequins and beads were the bling that brought it all together. That’s sparkle all right. by Stacey Ibach Bug 1 Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 4.36.05 PM