National Science Outreach Event at Cape Breton University

Cape Breton University Faculty members have been working in collaboration with the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada to present the Atlantic Science Knowledge (ASK) Science Odyssey, a science outreach event for youth.

On May 7th, 2016, over 75 elementary students from the Cape Breton Victoria Regional, Strait Regional School Board and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey School Boards were invited to Cape Breton University to discover science. The ASK Science Odyssey is spearheaded by CBU professors Drs. Kathy Snow (Education), Matthias Bierenstiel (Chemistry) and Katherine Jones (Biology), and aims to engage young students in geographically relevant and applied challenges, one being the construction of a wind-powered elevator.

“From my perspective,” says Dr. Jones.  “One of the most important roles we have as faculty members is to find ways to translate our research and university teaching into something engaging for everyone – and events like Science Odyssey are especially fun ways to do this.”

To qualify for the event, teams were instructed to create wind-powered elevators out of string, tape, straws and paper. During the Odyssey teams will be ranked on the performance of their elevator as well as other challenges, which involve topics ranging from buoyancy, electricity, plant identification and how to interpret layers of rock.

“Without revealing too much about the challenges prior to the event, I think it’s safe to say that we designed challenges that focus on applying scientific knowledge to every day questions, such as learning to identify plants that could be used for medicinal purposes,” says Dr. Jones.

“Using real-world problems is an effective and engaging way to get students motivated to learn and to begin asking scientific questions,” adds Dr. Snow. “We decided to include a wind turbine challenge to tie the event to one of the primary interests of CBU – making our campus more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.”

The top team takes home a set of microscopes for their classroom, which is sponsored in part by the Department of Education at CBU.

In addition to the ASK Science Odyssey, Drs. Jones, Bierenstiel and Snow have developed a variety of new science activities that are strongly linked to the Nova Scotian school curriculum. In response to local teacher demand, the team is providing science kits through a virtual platform on ASK CBU, a website that will officially launched in June 2016 – stay tuned!

For additional information, please contact the ASK Science Odyssey team at