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The Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair: A 60-Year Tradition Innovates in Answer to Covid-19

Working at WESCAM

When registration opened for The Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair (BASEF), no one could have predicted that the 60th celebration would also involve a brand new format.

For decades, Ontario students in grades 7 through 12, from Hamilton, Halton Region, Haldimand County, Norfolk County, County of Brant and Six Nations, have presented well-designed projects in an exhibition hall. Row upon row of research and findings are normally in an auditorium, displayed for review by a panel of excited judges.

This year, the global pandemic challenged fair organizers to pivot and find a way for the fair to continue its 60-year tradition of celebrating the efforts of today’s young minds. The solution? A new online format, which was a first in the event’s history, meant that students’ hard work would be recognized and judged remotely. Organizers and volunteers, including employees from L3Harris, recognized the effort that had already gone into these projects, and they wanted to ensure that students could still participate, despite restrictions.

“We are one of 105 regional science fairs affiliated with Youth Science Canada. Once the pandemic hit, many of those fairs didn’t happen. BASEF looked at this as an opportunity to do something different and host an online science fair. Some regional fairs followed our model, and I’m really proud of our people for leading this,” explained Dan Bowman, BASEF Co-chair. “Of the 330 originally registered projects, we had 217 submissions. We didn’t really expect that many; but, it shows the commitment and interest of our young people.”

Working from home with three monitors in front of garden view window
Photo: Julie Winterburn

As part of the event, teams had to develop and submit a backboard, project report and a video presentation. The BASEF organizers encouraged groups to be creative in their on-line submissions, either choosing one spokesperson to front the submission or using editing to combine videos shot at remote locations into one submission.

“Events like BASEF provide students with valuable experience and the chance to win scholarships, which are differentiators that can be highlighted on their resumes,” said Duane Heslinga, Vice President, Engineering. “I am pleased that our employees were able to help support the success of this year’s fair.”

L3Harris’ Julie Winterburn, Algorithm Designer; Stephanie Veltri, Systems Designer; and Andy Czebe, Mechanical Engineer, eagerly volunteered to judge the submissions.

“Last year was my first time volunteering as a judge, and I jumped at the chance to do it again this year,” said L3Harris’ Julie Winterburn, Algorithm Designer. “I was extremely impressed by how much detail teams put into their projects and it was amazing to see the number of talented and up-and-coming engineers!”

Some of the standout projects included an aerial mass transit system, a submersible hydrokinetic turbine deployment vehicle, and a smart cupboard that retrieves items.

“It was incredible to see just how talented and passionate these young adults are,” said Stephanie Veltri. “I really enjoyed providing them with advice that they can use as they embark on their journey to becoming successful engineers.”

Working from home at desk with computer
Photo: Stephanie Veltri

Andy Czebe echoed this sentiment, “This year’s projects blew me away, these students are learning electronics through Arduino, design through CAD, programming, 3D printing and are becoming creators before they are even old enough to drive,” said Andy. “As an engineer, I love seeing curious students pursue their interests, learn about STEM and build projects for fun!”

Working from home at desk with computer
Photo: Andy Czebe

The winners earned everything from Best in Fair to inspirational designed to keep the first-time applicants interested by allowing them to win at a project level rather than a fair level.

Normally, the top BASEF winners would go on to compete at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and International Science and Engineering Fair. Unfortunately, both shows were cancelled due to COVID-19. However, like those who have gone before them, there is a good chance you will see them making headlines with their work when they graduate.

L3Harris is committed to inspiring tomorrow’s innovators by making strategic investments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs that strengthen education and the skills of our industry’s next generation.

The organization is doing this through initiatives such as the Canadian Industrial Leadership Award (CILA). Offered by L3Harris Technologies, Thales Canada and CAE Canada, CILA includes a fully paid internship and executive mentorship, plus a one-time bursary and the opportunity for full-time employment after successful completion of the student’s program of study. Through this initiative, L3Harris, CAE and Thales Canada are working to increase employment, development and advancement opportunities for Canadian women in the defence and security sectors.

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