MEG Energy helps make learning STEM from fun

Five-year donation to DiscoverE camps benefits more kids and communities

Sheila Graham - 5 April 2018

Students at DiscoverE camp

Grade six student Ian Liu may never forget a science experiment he did at a University of Alberta summer camp. It involved combining yeast and vinegar and "smelled TERRIBLE."

Ian spent a week on the UAlberta campus taking part in DiscoverE, an interactive, hands-on program that gets kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Thanks to a five-year, $125,000 donation from MEG Energy, thousands of kids like Ian are getting the chance to see the fun in STEM at an early age.

At DiscoverE, kids have so much fun they don't realize they're actually learning, says Ian, who has attended the camp for four years. His favourite activities include checking out the university's Observatory, and that smelly and explosive experiment with yeast and vinegar that "got dumped straight into the garbage." He has learned there are more galaxies besides the Milky Way and he now has a long list of potential career options, including chemical engineer.

"Thinking about careers in science and engineering can be intimidating," says Wendy Robinson, manager of corporate identity and change management for MEG Energy. "DiscoverE's programs help kids explore the possibilities awaiting them in STEM fields."

That exposure to different areas of engineering and science, as well as getting to know the university, is what makes Ian's father, Wei Liu, such a big supporter of DiscoverE. "Kids come to the university for DiscoverE and they see what it's about, and then coming [to school] here becomes a goal," says Liu.

Both reactions are exactly what organizers are hoping to achieve. "Our goal is to get as many youth excited about STEM subjects as possible," says Ilana Crawford, DiscoverE's director and outreach coordinator. "We want to remove all barriers to STEM by providing bursaries to youth or communities in need, by running all-girls programming with amazing female undergraduate mentors and by bringing our programs to communities outside of Edmonton."

Through classroom workshops, summer camps, clubs and special events, the DiscoverE team brings programming to 78 communities in Alberta and the Northwest Territories each year. Seeing positive role models from the University of Alberta encourages younger students - particularly Indigenous and at-risk youth - to work towards attending post-secondary, saws Crawford.

In the past five years, DiscoverE has increased attendance by 10 per cent to serve more than 23,000 kids, and has extended its geographical reach to 35 per cent more communities.

"Partnerships with great companies like MEG allow us to continue to go to these diverse communities every year, create new programs, and ensure we are offering content that is both educational and fun," Crawford says. "Support also helps give all youth a chance to attend camp - whether in Edmonton or in Tuktyuktuk."