Defence scientists bring creativity and innovation to science outreach

May 13, 2021 - Defence Stories


Defence scientists and researchers are finding creative ways to engage in outreach during Science Odyssey from May 1 to 16.

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting travel and in-person visits, Defence Scientists and researchers have applied the same innovative approach they bring to their daily work to the challenge of inspiring kids through virtual platforms.

In a typical year, Defence Scientists and researchers from the Department of National Defence’s science and technology organization, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), head out into classrooms in early May to talk to young people about the interesting science they conduct. The outreach is part of Science Odyssey (You are now leaving the Government of Canada website), a national celebration of science organized by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, with the goal of encouraging young Canadians to pursue STEM careers.

While in-person visits are not possible this year, Defence Scientists and researchers are finding advantages to virtual speaking engagements.

Dr. Geoffrey Ho, who conducts Human Factors research at DRDC's Toronto Research Centre, presented in a virtual workshop on Technology that Makes Us Safer during this year's Science Odyssey. For this event, Dr. Ho was paired with Defence Scientists from DRDC's Ottawa Research Centre and the Centre for Security Science to offer a unique high-level view of the depth and breadth of research at DRDC. "The ability to connect with people virtually has been imperative during the pandemic. It's great to present alongside colleagues from other DRDC centres and be able to reach so many young people simultaneously from across Canada," Dr. Ho says.

Defence Scientists and researchers have also taken advantage of the remote learning opportunity to reach schools further from research centres.

Dr. Andrew Sirjoosingh, who applies machine learning and data science techniques at DRDC’s Centre for Operational Research and Analysis in Ottawa, spoke to a Gr. 12 class at White Pines Secondary School 800 kilometres away in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

“It is great to be able to connect with students in cities further from the research centres who wouldn’t normally participate in this event,” Dr. Sirjoosingh says. “The students ask great questions and are really engaged, and we were able to connect over the shared experience of learning and working from home.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Helen Moise, who studies radiation and threats with DRDC Suffield, is inspiring young women to pursue STEM careers. Dr. Moise was one of three Suffield scientists to record videos about their work to be shared with secondary school students in the week leading up to a virtual conference where the students will get to interact with the scientists and ask questions about their careers.

“I’m looking forward to being able to connect with young women who are interested in careers in science. These students could be the next leaders in defence science,” Dr. Moise says.

This year, there are 19 Defence Scientists and researchers participating in 15 Science Odyssey events.

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