Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.5

November 6, 2003


Expo-Science lights up the imagination

by Scott McRae

Photo of kids at Expo-Science

Owen Maslon, 5, and sister, Sophie, 7, dip into science at Concordia’s Science and Technology Exhibition on Saturday.
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskj

The glowing pickle should never be attempted at home. It gets hot, it’s full of current, and if the two electrodes touch, the pickle explodes. Glowing pickles were, however, a great draw at the twentieth annual Concordia Science and Technology Exhibition, Expo-Science, held in Pointe Claire last weekend.

The community outreach event drew an estimated 1,600 participants, many having visited in past years. Most were children, parents in tow, awestruck at arcing electricity running up a Jacob’s Ladder, amazed by canine skulls and more than a little enamoured of the homemade nitrogen ice cream.

Such wonder is, for co-organizer Cameron Tilson, what makes this event successful. “We bring the university to the community,” he said, explaining that he hoped the eager young kids of today would be the bright Concordia students of the future.

Some of these Concordia students were on hand over the weekend. A few, like first year environmental science student Ryan Bassanese, came to scout out future areas of specialization and to get inspired by the available options. Many others, like molecular biology graduate student Damiano Ferraro, came to staff booths.

Ferraro was all smiles as he showed his rapt onlookers different specimens belonging to the arthropod family: a scuttling black and orange Halloween crab, a praying mantis, a docile Asian scorpion, a giant black millipede as thick as a thumb, and a tarantula.

“We’re keeping the tarantula in the cage this year,” he confided, as last year the normally docile spider began jumping about, scaring children.

Like Ferraro, many of the student volunteers had given their time at previous exhibitions and returned because they so enjoyed giving demonstrations to kids. Co-organizer Cameron Tilson first got involved when, as a geology lab technician, he volunteered to design a presentation for the inaugural Expo Science.

That was in 1984, the year that Dr. Robert Pallen, a former Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry professor, and the Pointe Claire Community centre collaborated to create a presence for the university on the West Island. This year, professors Miriam Posner and Louis Cuccia joined Tilson in organizing the event. Pointe Claire is the only community in which the university hosts Expo-Science. Though Tilson said that he would love to see multiple venues, he explained that resources and time are insufficient.

Residents of Pointe Claire had only positive comments about the event. “I thinks it’s well set out,” said Lurline Brown, who brought her grandson Liam Cooper-Brown to the fair. “It’s made very interesting for children. They can be very stimulated here.”

Such was the case for Darian Yee, 5, whose favourites included the millipede, the robot and the “goop,” an isothixotropic substance made of cornstarch and water which alternates state between liquid and solid depending on how much agitation it receives.

Children like Yee get excited by the exhibits, said Charlotte Lamontagne, a Graduate Diploma student in the new Environmental Impact Assessment program, because they showcase aspects of the natural world kids might not necessarily see in school. Lamontagne, too, said she feels enthusiastic about the displays, something which keeps her coming back to volunteer.

“Nature is cool,” she said, “and I want to share that with people.”