Program gives youth STEAM to explore new fields

Olivia Béchard gathers some of the youth to discuss possibilities to make the scavenger hunt more fluid. Béchard is the coordinator of the STEAM Effect Project and has been running the operations since 2018.

A program at the Canada Science and Technology Museum aims to give students a burst of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) and inspiration to pursue opportunities for the future.

Since the fall of 2018, the STEAM Effect Project has been engaging youth ages 14 to 17. The cost-free program gives youth who otherwise do not get to participate in after-school programs the chance to dip their toes into various STEAM-related fields. 

“Over the past five sessions of the program, we’ve made changes based on what the kids are interested in and what structures work well for them,” says Olivia Béchard, coordinator of the STEAM Effect Project. “So now we’re mostly focused on building skills, and that has really given them a lot of opportunity in terms of being exposed to new things.”

Béchard adds that one of the program’s main objectives is to open the eyes of youth to various potential career paths in STEAM-related fields. The program hopes to get more and more youth involved in science and technology.

The youth are given opportunities to try their hand at many different things, such as using a 3D printer and laser cutter, as well as learning how to code. Throughout the sessions, they have been working on building skills that would be useful in any workplace that they choose, such as collaboration, communication, and creativity. 

Five teenage boys sit across a bench in the museum. Standing above them is three teenage girls and a teenage boy, along with the project coordinator. She is holding out papers with instructions on them for the scavenger hunt game they were playing.

Olivia Béchard reads out some instructions regarding the scavenger hunt on Mar.11, 2020. The group had almost completed the hunt and were only looking for a couple more objects. 

Each session of the STEAM Effect Project runs for 12 weeks. The young participants meet up with Béchard and other experts, depending on the subject they are working on. The group meets twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, for a total of about eight hours per week.  

Maleika Fahmi, a 15-year-old student at Colonel By Secondary School, signed up for the STEAM Effect Project in early 2020 after her father discovered the program online. 

“This opened my mind to a lot of social, more involved sciences so I can more interact and use sciences in (an) application manner,” says Fahmi. “I really like the activities. It’s really more hands-on activities and you really get to use your head.” 

The STEAM Effect Project challenges students to really dig deep and think critically about problems.  In one scenario, a scavenger hunt was used to show the relationship between commands from Earth to a robot on another planet, such as Mars. The youth were split into two groups, with one commanding group giving directions on a tablet, while the other followed those orders to find an object in the museum. It was a neat way to show how something as complicated as planetary discovery could be broken down to something as simple as directions from a tablet. 

Even little games such as the scavenger hunt can have a lasting impact on the youth that come and participate. 

“We’re trying to do stuff that they wouldn’t have in school,” says Béchard. “Whether it’s continuing on in college and university, looking at careers they could have in STEAM; that was the avenue we were trying to go down.”

Three teenagers look for clues regarding a scavenger hunt, with one of them holding a tablet in his hand with the clues and another looking overtop to help him.

Liban Aboubaker looks at his tablet to make sure he is getting the correct information regarding a scavenger hunt. 

Yobo Omekeh, a 17-year-old student at Immaculata High School, is currently participating in the program. He says he has enjoyed walking around the museum, and observing how science and technology has evolved over the years.

“We’re interested in science and want to learn about science, about what we know already at our age, so that when we get to college we can accomplish more goals,” says Omekeh. “Science is the best way, because science solves the problems in the world right now.”

Omekeh says the program has allowed him to learn something new every week, instead of going home and doing nothing after school. He has learned how to sew and understands how to code using microbeats on a laptop. 

By unveiling the wonders of science and technology, the STEAM Effect Project helps pique the interest of youth and helps them along the path of lifelong discovery.. 

Are you a youth between the ages of 14 and 17? For more information on our next session, visit the STEAM Effect Project.

Four teenage boys pose in front of the posters and words across the wall saying my family. On the left the teenager wore a dark blue jacket, next to him the other boy wore a green sweater, followed by another teenager wearing a grey hoodie with a black jack around it and on the far right the last teenager wore a grey hoodie with a dark blue jacket overtop.

Four boys gather in a group picture finding one of the objects in the museum for their scavenger hunt. The day was filled with excitement and laughter, and also demonstrated skills of leadership and cooperation. 

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Bradley Legault

Bradley Legault is an English Writer/Editor who is currently interning from Algonquin College to create for Ingenium. His crafty wordplay and simple tone paints a picture in readers minds to bring the wonderful nature of museum history and science and technology to life.