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SHArK North! and the Let’s Talk Solar! High School Science Symposium

June 28, 2024 — 

The Solar Hydrogen Activity Research Kit (SHArK North!) Solar Energy Outreach Program is an educationally inclusive outreach program run in partnership with multiple Winnipeg-area high schools. The program introduces Grade 11 and 12 students to materials science and renewable energy research, via the challenge of sustainably powering our planet. Specifically, the program provides participants with experience in hands-on research in combinatorial solid-state mixed metal oxide construction and electrochemical evaluation of light-driven water oxidation.

Dave Herbert, chemistry professor walking across the stage in front of an audience at the Talk Solar event.

Dave Herbert, professor at the department of chemistry

The technical portion of the program, hosted at UM in the department of chemistry over 6 after-school sessions, builds on an outreach kit first formulated by Bruce Parkinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Wyoming and incorporates elements of the Solar Energy Activity Lab (SEAL) program developed as part of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Solar. The program was first introduced to UM by former UM faculty member, Michael Freund. For the past 9 years, SHArK North! has been coordinated by David Herbert, a professor in the department of chemistry, and senior mentors from his research group including current student programming coordinator Baldeep Sidhu. Rounding out the mentor team is a host of amazing volunteers including alumni from the SHArK program itself who are now undergraduates at UM.

The partnership between SHArK North! and local teachers has meant being able to work with incredibly motivated and enthusiastic groups of students from schools across the city including Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, Fort Richmond Collegiate, Met schools including Seven Oaks Met, Exchange Met and Maples Met, St. Mary’s, Grant Park and more. SHArK North’s numbers have steadily grown with over 100 participants this past academic year!

In the Spring, the SHArK North! team collaborated with the wonderful UM-based crew from Let’s Talk Science!—Hannah Garber, Hailey Therrien, Noor Imran, and Nathan Kostiuk—to put on the first annual Let’s Talk Solar! High School Science Symposium on May 7th. This event welcomed 143 high school students from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, Vincent Massey Collegiate, Pembina Trails Collegiate, Sisler High School, Tec-Voc High School and more to the UM campus where they were treated to a day of talks and hands-on activities all centred on the potential and challenges of using solar energy to sustainably power our planet.

Students interacting with chemistry concepts such as molecules modelled with small balls and wooden rods.The Let’s Talk Solar! High School Science Symposium is unique in its ‘peer-to-peer’ format, wherein SHArK participants present their own work to their peers from other high schools. Part of the motivation of SHArK North! is to empower Winnipeg’s younger generations to be able to think critically about climate change and energy, and grow confident in having conversations about these important issues. At the Let’s Talk Solar! event, UM’s SHArK North! team helps connect SHArK participants with an audience of their peers. While the SHArK ambassadors were provided guidance on how to discuss scientific results and provide proper context for research findings, they were free to present what they felt was most important. Following the presentations, the SHArK North! team then demonstrated aspects of the hands-on research that makes up the program in a safe and fun fashion through stations set up and run by SHArK mentors—graduate students and undergraduate students from the Faculty of Science and Price Faculty of Engineering here at UM—with support from the Let’s Talk Science! crew.

We also want to extend thanks to the SHArK North! program is supported by the Faculty of Science Outreach Grant Program, the Winnipeg Foundation Community Grants Program, and the University of Manitoba’s Community Engagement Fund. for their financial support.

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