STEAM Horizon awards program seeks inspiring, science-minded youth

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation

It’s time for five science-loving Canadian teens to shine.

The application process is officially open for the 2022 Ingenium-NSERC STEAM Horizon Awards, which means five inspiring youth will soon be awarded $25,000 to be used towards post-secondary education. Two of those prizes will be awarded to Indigenous youth. The application deadline for the award program is January 14, 2022.

Now in its sixth year, the awards program invites youth ages 16 to 18 to promote positive changes in their communities using science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). While award recipients come from diverse backgrounds and communities, each one must demonstrate an inspiring achievement in an area of STEAM. Achievements may be formally recognized — such as a science fair win or a patented invention. Or, they could be less formally recognized — such as developing a course for kids, or creating a local interactive art installation. Regardless of the accomplishment, it must reflect passion and illustrate a positive impact on the community.

Samantha Burke — who grew up in a Gytwangack community in British Columbia — was one of last year’s award recipients. Recently, the Ingenium Channel caught up with Burke to find out what she’s been up to since her big win, and to ask her advice for this year’s applicants.

Samantha Burke looks through a microscope in a lab setting; she is wearing a white lab coat and safety glasses.

Samantha Burke, who grew up in a Gytwangack community in British Columbia, was one of last year’s award recipients. 

Ingenium Channel (IC): Where has life taken you since winning your STEAM Horizon award? 

Samantha Burke (SB): Since winning the STEAM Horizon award, I have started my first year studying Science at the University of Alberta. My main focus for this first semester has been the transition into university life and living in a new city. 

At university, I’ve already had the chance to participate in some riveting projects — even just within my classes. I have measured the width of my hair with a laser, designed lab experiments to optimize fermentation and minimize waste, and even created crystals. Being at university has also led me to discover some new interests. With all the variety of programs and courses available, I am considering switching my major to pursue a degree in neuroscience. Doing so allows me to enter a field where I can study topics much like my previous project about aphantasia. One day, I might even be able to continue this research and dive even deeper into the subject.

IC: What have been the impact(s) of winning this award?

SB: Winning the STEAM Horizon award has provided me with the privilege to study at a top university in Canada, without any financial burdens for my first year. Thanks to this award, I have been able to apply all my time and energy to my learning and understanding of life’s truly more intriguing topics. I can prioritize my schooling and still find the much-needed time to focus on self-care and mental health. 

In addition, this award has instilled greater confidence in me. Often when a person goes into a STEAM degree at a post-secondary institution, they go from being a top student at their high school to joining all the other top students, all working toward the same goal. One can often get lost in this, but this award reminds me of all the hard work I have done in the past to get to this point, and it inspires me to keep going every day.

IC: What does pursuing a career in STEAM mean to you and your community? 

SB: Growing up as a young Indigenous woman, there were very few female scientists, doctors, engineers, or any other professionals within STEAM fields for me to look up to. It can be very discouraging when you don’t see yourself represented in the field you’re passionate about and wish to pursue. For myself, working towards a career in STEAM is a way to not only follow my own interests and expand my knowledge of a fascinating topic, but to become that role model that was missing — both for myself and many other young women. 

Within my community — a rural area in Canada — my hope is that my enrollment at a top university and my pursuit of a challenging career path will be an inspiration to other young people, who are in similar situations. With so few opportunities in STEAM for youth in rural areas, it can often be a challenge to get on this road. But if you are truly enthusiastic about STEAM and willing to put in the effort it is possible and very rewarding.

IC: There may be qualified students reading this article who are interested in applying for the STEAM Horizon Awards, but are a bit intimidated. What would be your advice to them?

SB: When I first saw the STEAM Horizon award on one of those scholarship websites, in the mix with many other potential scholarships, I thought there was no way I would win. It was an enormous award with distinguished and prestigious sponsors. Then, looking back at previous winners and their accomplishments — like building robots, partaking in research, and creating programs — I was even more intimidated. I thought I had done nothing compared to any of them. 

However, I took a chance…and it paid off. If you are even the slightest bit interested in this scholarship, I strongly encourage you to apply. This award can be very impactful on your life. It allows you to connect with major companies, meet other students passionate about STEAM, and of course, take off some of the financial burden that comes with post-secondary education. No matter the size or quantity of your accomplishments, if you have a passion for STEAM and the desire to make a difference, you should take up this opportunity. You never know, you might be one of this year’s winners!

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.