On Thursday March 29th, 2012, over 200 school-aged youth, and 100 judges descended on Queen's University's McArthur Hall for the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington County Science Fair

I wrote a guest post for the guys over at Obesity Panacea a few weeks ago about “scientific philanthropy.” Giving back is something I feel strongly about, and promoting science to high school youth is not only important, it is a necessary part of what we as graduate students should do. I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors that have helped me to where I am in my career today (ie starting one). The least I can do is pay that forward to the next generation of young scientists.

Last week was the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Science Fair (FLASF), a science fair held in Kingston since 1970. I’ve judged this for a few years, and each year I’m blown away by the level of science on display. I also want to give a shout out to my department (Community Health and Epidemiology at Queen’s University). We had about half of the study body there, clipboards in hand, ready to judge! Way to go guys!

I had a conversation with one budding scientist who was looking at the effects of coke and water on teeth. She had two teeth, took a picture of each, then put on in coke and one in water. She watched them over the course of a week, and every day took a photo to see what happened. As one would expect, the tooth in coke started turned black, while the one in water remained relatively okay (her words, not mine). Of course, my first question is “where did you get the teeth from?”

Turns out they were hers. That, my dear reader, is dedication.

From Obesity Summit 2011

There’s something inspiring about talking to kids about science. They haven’t been trained to think in a certain way about experiments, and the limitations placed on them are quite simply “it has to be done in time to present it at the Fair.” The “grown up” equivalent of a science fair would be the poster contest at a conference. Unfortunately, people spend less time talking to people about their posters, and usually try and find their way to the snack tables and bathrooms in those breaks rather than talking to other delegates (see picture above).

I think the one thing I noticed more than anything else, was the energy in the room. Walking through a giant gym full of posters, you could feel the excitement borne of scientific discovery (and possibly fueled by caffeinated soft drinks and pizza). I haven’t feel that at any conference I’ve been to; generally it’s more trepidation, fear and an overwhelming sense of dread as you wait for your judges to come to you.

I can’t stress volunteering at one of these events enough. If you have the time, you really should give it a shot.