Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday - late

Thought I should let you hear from the stars themselves ...
Asked them to come write about the highlight of the week ....

The highlight of the week was split into two events:
1. Having the honour of winning the first place award in engineering.
2. fem showd (inside joke)

For this message, I first wanted to write something profound about how incredible my week at Los Angeles was. But I couldn't. My words just can't really describe how amazing the people and the overall experience has been. Enough said.

Seeing amazing research and ideas, meeting amazing people, and getting tons of free stuff have all made this week incredible beyond my wildest expectations! Thanks to everyone who made this possible and congrats to everyone who competed!

I am proud to have represented Canada as a member of Team Canada ISEF 2011. This event was very exciting to compete in, and I learnt a lot about how participating at the ISEF is not impossible- you just have to pick an ambitious and interesting project and get started!

Most of the week was spent having fun and meeting new people. This turned out to be the real highlight of my trip.

What an amazing week in Los Angeles California! It was a blast meeting people from all around the globe! Competing in the ISEF was an amazing experience that I will never forget! The two highlights of the week were going to Universal Studios, and visiting the Santa Monica Pier! Thank you to our amazing chaperones for taking care of us all! Also congratulation to everyone who attended the 2011 Intel ISEF!

ISEF was an experience that I will never forget! I met new people from all around the world as well as made an everlasting friendship with everybody on Team Canada. I really enjoyed going to Universal Studios as well as Hollywood, and spending time with amazing young scientists that all share the same interests! Great job to everybody and thank you to all the chaperones for making this week as good as it was!! I will never forget this week!!

Los Angeles was amazing! It was a fabulous opportunity to meet people from around the world and spend time with the others in Team Canada. The most exciting aspect of my trip primarily included a night at Universal Studios and Hollywood. Congratulations to everybody and I would like to thank each and every one of the chaperones for making this amazing week possible.

If I had to describe this week in three words: exhilarating, magnafique, and awesome! Congragulations once again to everyone who won an award. Everyone on this team is AMAZING and I am absolutely honoured to know everyone! Thanks to Cathy, Ray, Caroline, Dustin, Spencer and Liane for their awesomeness throughout this trip!

This Intel ISEF week was totally awesome!! It has definitely exciting to meet young researchers from across the world, who were passionate and devoted to their projects. Congratulations to everyone for representing Canada with their awesome and exciting projects! I am honoured to be part of this group and thanks to all of the chaperones for making sure that everything went smoothly and making this experience amazing! Overall, Intel ISEF 2011 was awesome and I am very proud to be a member of Team Canada!

This week has been absolutely amazing! Attending the Intel ISEF has been one of the best experiences of my life. Summing up the whole experience is near impossible, because it has been filled with so many fantabulous moments and experiences. One thing that has really stood out for me is the incredible energy that we experienced almost 24/7. This experience would truly not have been possible without the support of our parents, family members, teachers, mentors, chaperones, Intel Canada, UOIT, and Youth Science Canada. Being surrounded by people from all corners of the globe helped to instil in us the fact that by working together we really can change the world.

This week at the Intel ISEF was one of the best weeks of my life!! The week was filled with so many good memories like the Santa Monica Beach, Hollywood, and the Universal Studios. We all had so much energy everyday! At home, I never can never wake up as early as we do here in LA. Also, being able to meet fabulous people from all over the world is just amazing! Thanks everyone who made this awesome week possible. I'm very proud to be a member of Team Canada and I hope to come back next year!!

Although this week was stressful with my sister and partner losing her voice to acute bronchitis, it definitely ended absolutely wonderfully. The night at Universal Studios was one of the most fun nights of my life, as we were thrilled with ride after ride with no wait times and free concession food :) A relaxing day at Hollywood and Santa Monica also was a beautiful vacation. Meeting people from all over the world was thrilling and exciting. But the best part of my week was hanging out and building lasting friendships with the interesting, talented, amazing members of Team Canada. I've had the time of my life being on Team Canada once again, and I hope to be back again next year! :D

Enjoyable? Stressful? Unforgettable? Yes, yes, and YES! This week has been that and so much more! For one of the few times in my life, I am surrounded by a cadre of amazing peers with whom I can truly connect on more than a few levels! I know that there are people who think that Intel ISEF is just another stuffy academic event, an expo for all the science nerds of the world. Through my experience as being part of Team Canada, I seek to change that inaccurate perception, even if it's just one friend at a time. Although the judging and competition may be the central (and thus most stressful) part of the week, our team had an incredible time bonding, and I think, in the end, it is the good times and the international friendships forged that infused our memories with a special vibrancy and vitality!

Imagine a world where everything you love surrounds you. This is where a utopia exists; the epitome of perfection. This is not a bar; this is Intel ISEF! Science thrives here, but not just that; timeless friendships are made, unbreakable bonds linked to one another, and unerasable memories etched in my mind like hieroglyphics on stone. You call call me the amateur, first year competing at ISEF. I wanted it to be really good. Unfortunately, it was not good at all; it was stellar and magnificent. I loved every part of it, from the meetings in Toronto, the arrivals in LA, the pin trading, the tours, and the experience of it all. Personally, I am glad to say I have been so close with future Forbes Richest People of the Earth. I would like to take this time to introduce two people, one that is going to Princeton and another one striving to go to Princeton for making this ISEF experience an unforgettable one. Remember: Reach for the stars so if you fall, you'll land on a cloud.

ISEF is amazing (just remember : don't get sick! cause you would really want to talk to all the cool people here AND you miss out on the pin trading where everyone thinks you're an anti-social awkward loner so losing your voice isn't the best idea :P) Eat lots - and remember your nametag :) I feel bad writing such a short post but it's past midnight and it's time for bed....long flight home tomorrow!

Friday- Grand Awards!!!!

The blogsite was down last night, so apologies that you're seeing both sets of awards at the same time. It also appears as if two blog posts (Monday night and Tuesday) have disappeared. I'm hoping they come back, otherwise I'll re-write them.

So we wake up early on Friday, and have breakfast at the hotel for the last time.
We ask the kids to bring their boxes, bags, tubes and luggage and we'll head off to pack up projects right after the awards ceremony.

As always, the awards and closing ceremony is incredible. A video with highlights of the week brings lots of cheers as people recognize themselves, their neighbours, or just re-live all the great memories of the week.

So ... the moment you've all been waiting for!

11 Merit Awards for Canada!!

4th place of $500
Sabrina (YSC) in Biochemistry
Megan (Montreal) in Medicine and Health Sciences
Grace (YSC) in Medicine and Health Sciences
Janelle & Vivienne Tam (YSC) in Engineering

3rd place of $1000
Adelina (YSC) in Behavioural/Social Sciences
Reda & Alexandre (YSC) in Medical and Health Sciences

2nd place of $1500 + an asteroid named after them
Howard (YSC) in Cellular and Molecular Biology
Chloe (Montreal) in Environmental Science
Rui (YSC) in Plant Sciences
Dheevesh (YSC) in Energy and Transportation

1st place of $3,000 + an asteroid named after them
Chris (YSC) in Engineering

In the five years that I've been here, this is a record number of Awards for our Canadian students .. 9 specials, and 11 merits, for a total of 20 Awards.

Congratulations to all these students who were specially honoured today, and also to all of our finalists. They have done such an amazing job representing our country. We couldn't be prouder of the team we had here this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday - Special Awards Night

Will go back and fill in the day later, (apologies that the blog website was down last night)
But I know everyone is anxious to see the awards.

Special Awards

Oh Canada!

Special Awards were Special indeed tonight!

9 Awards for Canadian students …

American Dental Association

1st prize of $1,000 to Sabrina (YSC)

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists

4th prize of $125 to Linda (YSC)

American Psychological Society

1st prize of $1,250 to Adelina (YSC)

GE Energy

1st prize of $2,500 to Lauren (YSC)


1st place “Secret Agent” Award of $10,000 to Sarah (BASEF)

Illinois Institute of Technology

2nd place of $1,000 to Adelina (YSC)

Patent and Trademark Office

1st place of $200 to Janelle (BASEF)

International Society for Optical Engineering

2nd place of $1,500 to Chris (YSC)

Society of Experimental Test Pilots

1st place of $1,000 to Lauren (YSC)

In addition to these 9 awards, every finalist and student observer here will receive a copy of “Mathematica” software from Wolfram Research.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday - Trip Day

We arrive downstairs to go for breakfast to hear the wonderful news from a front desk clerk we've never seen before that we were indeed supposed to have free wireless internet as part of our hotel package. The kids are so excited! Everyone gets their wireless codes, and we discuss with the front desk how they are going to reimburse everyone who has already paid for it. Hmm ... they will have to get back to us on that one!

Vivienne, one of the YSC students, hadn't been feeling great. We decide this morning that we should have her checked out, and she and Caroline head over to the local hospital. (she's fine)

The rest of us decide to head out for breakfast this morning .. some of the kids have never been to an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) before. Since this is a US icon, we must indeed add this to the long valuable list of life experiences. I have to say that they didn't even bat an eyelash when we said we needed a table (or a couple of tables) for 30.

Lunch on judging day (tomorrow) requires planning ahead, and we spot a Subway across the street. I go over and grab a whole pad of their takeout forms. While waiting for our breakfast, we have the kids pre-order subs for tomorrow that we will go and pick up for them during the morning of judging.

We're back at the hotel by 9:30 and the plan for the day is to head to Santa Monica. The kids have worked hard getting ready for tomorrow, and we like to spend the day before by getting out and seeing something of the city we are visiting. Ray, Leanne, Spencer and Dustin rent vans and everyone piles in for the trip to the beach.

It's Sarah's birthday, and a loud rousing chorus of Happy Birthday is sung on Santa Monica Boulevard!

Everyone arrives back late afternoon. Popular souvenir of the day is the California Lifeguard sweatshirt. Most of the students have had some combination of pizza, ice cream and slushies for lunch. And there are a few, well, hmm ..., lobsters. No, not the kind you eat, but the kind when over-wintered pasty white Canadian skin hits California sun for the first time this season. Rest assured, it's not because we didn't remind them SEVERAL times that they needed sunscreen, but because they were distracted (by lifeguard sweatshirts, ice cream and the ocean!)

Tonight's entertainment is LA Live - an entertainment hotspot in downtown LA. ESPN Fun Zone, a bowling alley, and a dance club are all open for the students to attend. With different food in each setting, students are encouraged to move around to the various locations and have some fun. Adults are hosted in the "Conga Room". We tell the group to relax and have some fun, and to check in with us at the front desk when they come back. The first arrival is Michael at 8:10 pm. An IISEF veteran, he just wants an early night. Slowly but surely, the rest arrive back in pairs or small groups and check in with me at the hotel lobby. Some want to tell stories about the evening, others simply need a little encouragement for the morning as they are nervous about judging. Finally, all but four have arrived back. The second last group back tell us that the dance was disappointing ... pressed further, it's really because they couldn't get up on the stage to dance. They do, however, let us know that the last group are up on stage dancing. Without telling tales, it's not exactly the students we thought would be last back on the night before judging day as they were out dancing on stage!!

When we do bed check at night, there's a lot of sleepy kids. A day of fun and sun, followed by a night of games and dancing has left them tuckered out. Good thing ... tomorrow is a big day!

Opening Ceremonies

Well, all the kids (and chaperones!) arrived back from the afternoon's adventures.
No-one famous was spotted on Hollywood Blvd, but everyone enjoyed the trip.

This afternoon we reviewed presentations with the students. As always, there were some in which I could only smile and nod politely ... I'm confident that they were speaking English .. but it doesn't necessarily mean I understood a word that they said! What never ceases to amaze me with these remarkable students is the passion with which they talk about their subjects.

Many of these projects come about as a result of a curious, yet seemingly innocent, question, and then the quest for an answer takes them in places and directions that they never thought they would go.

We're part way through the afternoon when I get a phone call from one of the parents who is here and over in the exhibit hall that one of our Canadian projects has a safety violation sheet on the desk. Although it is dated last night, it certainly wasn't there when we went this morning, so we drop everything to take the student over to fix it. This messes up our very carefully set up plan for interviews, so we agree to hear a few more tomorrow.

Then it's time to head over to the Opening Ceremonies, one of the highlights of the week. We start with dinner in the Great Hall of the convention centre .. a buffet of chicken, fish, salads, rice and vegetables .. and, the important part, cupcakes of many sizes, colours and flavours!

The students are all in red and white, some have Canadian tattoos, some have flags in their hair, others are carrying flags ... it's quite a sight!!!

The ceremonies start off with a "Stomp"-like presentation. Everyone loved the drums. They then brought out a different set that were rigged up with lights, and the drummers had blacklight costumes. They did a totally different set of music in the dark. Some of the kids got up and started dancing in the few front rows.

So here are this years "fun facts" (one of my personal favourite segments of the fair)

At this years fair, over $4M (yes, million) in prizes, scholarships and trips will be handed out. There are 1543 finalists from 65 Countries (the largest number of countries ever). Over 200 of these finalists have already exhibited in at least one IISEF.
First time countries participating are: France, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Macao SAR of People's Republic of China.

This years finalists are 56% Male and 44% Female. As per usual, this elicits shouts of excitement from both genders! There are over 1,000 judges, volunteers and interpreters here as well.

Fun Facts:
A Mosquito has 47 teeth
Six eight-studded Lego blocks can be combined 102,981,500 ways
Cats can make over 100 vocal sounds, dogs only 10
The saber-toothed cat is the official state fossil of California

Bad joke of the night:
What do you call a test tube with a diploma?
A graduated cylinder!

Quote of the night - from Albert Einstein
"It's not that I'm smart ... I just stay with the problems longer"

Next up as a video with a number of influential people, and former IISEF competitors, wishing the students well.
One of those is BASEF's very own Ben Gulak, who was a two time IISEF attendee, and wound up taking his science fair project, the Uno, on to Dragon's Den. He's now CEO of BPG Works, and is developing a variation of his project for commercial application.

5 Nobel Laureates are also in attendance for the Opening Ceremonies, and they are introduced next.

Our keynote speaker for the evening is Jeffrey Katzenbert, CEO of Dreamworks.

He shared the story with us of the history of the company, and his personal connections to the Lion King and Madagascar movies. Madagascar came out of trips he used to make as a child to the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Over 20% of Dreamworks employees have PHD's, and almost 2/3 of them have advanced degrees ... a huge change from the origins of the company where they hired mainly artists!

The absolute highlight of the night (for me, anyway) was a sneak preview of a 90 second clip of Kung Fu Panda 2.

After the ceremony, we stop to take a few pictures of the whole team, as well as pictures of the team with the Libyan delegation, and the Brazilian delegation. Then it was back to the hotel to hang out for a bit, then bed time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday, May 9 - mid afternoon

The kids are slower to appear this morning, but appear they do. We start off with breakfast in the hotel lobby again. They have a pretty good selection of juice, cereal, dried fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, rice, muffins and pastries. It’s all a la carte, and the prices are reasonable.

The kids are really starting to mix together and just enjoy each others company.

So today is one of those “madly off in all directions” sort of days. Three of the students have media interviews scheduled throughout the morning, two are writing exams, a number want to work on their projects or hang out at the e-lounge, and some, well some are feeling less cerebral, and really just want to go shopping!

Leanne, Ray, Dustin and Spencer decide to take a large group on the train down to Hollywood Boulevard. The girls want to window shop on Rodeo Drive, or just see someone famous!

Caroline and I stay back to play “traffic cop” and get all the rest where they need to go when they need to be there. We take turns being stationed in the hotel lobby, and convention centre lobby and sending groups of students back and forth between the two places. The Marriott across the street has free wifi in the lobby, so it’s become another popular collection place. And, most importantly, there’s a Starbucks on the second floor of the convention centre, and another one beside the Marriott, so Caroline and I are both very happy. Happy chaperones makes for a good week!!!

I often get asked about the nature of the projects that these students do. So here’s a sample of the Canadian project titles – you can see why by the end of each Fair, I’m even better than before at Trivial Pursuit:

Inhibition of the ATPase Activity of the Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Protein by Human Lactoferrin; Identification of Ezrin as a Colonic Substrate for Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Sigma; Indoor Ground Manifold Tracking through Low-Cost Stereoscopy; Traffic Lights Fuzzy Controller; Simplifying SODIS: Recution of UV-Impeding Turbidity through Macroscopic Filtration; Plants Purify Pee

The goal is for everyone to arrive back at the hotel circa 2:30 to do another round of presentations before we head over to dinner and the Opening ceremonies this evening. I’ll let you know later on how well that actually executed!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday, May 8

So I thought I should start off this post with the “cast of characters” who will appear on these pages in the next few days, just so you can keep them all straight. (Although, if it makes you feel any better, I’m still working on some of the names myself!)

Youth Science Canada (YSC) Chaperones are: Caroline, Leanne, Spencer and Dustin.

BASEF Chaperones are: Cathy (me) and Ray

Montreal Chaperones are: Gus, Wilson and Barry

YSC students are: Adelina from Richmond Hill, Sabrina from Sherbrooke, Emma from Ottawa, Howard from Richmond Hill, Rui from Saskatoon, Anqi from Waskatoon, Chris from Calgary, Megan from Walkerton, Zeyu from Calgary, Nicholas fom Surrey, Vivienne and Janelle from Waterloo, Lauren from Oshawa, Dheevesh from Mississauga, Lexie from Grimsby, Linda from Vancouver, Grace from London, Reda and Alexandre from Quebec City, and Michael from Toronto

BASEF Students are: Janelle, Sarah, Yiquan and Ishan

Montreal Students are: Marianne, Katherine, Chloe and Meagan-Helen

Now that we have that all straight ….

Caroline, Dustin and I head over to the registration area, after the pre-requisite stop at Starbucks (you’ll note this become a theme over the course of the week!). We were among the first in line, so picked up the 40 or so nametags and registration bags and packages, then put the nametags and packages together, eat our breakfast, and await the arrival of the rest of the group.

Ray, Leanne and Spencer, in the meantime, herd the kids through the breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby, then have them gather their projects from their rooms, and make the long duct-tape laden parade from hotel to the convention centre. We are excited to see that none of our projects have any SRC violations (thanks Tom and Patrick back home!) and we can proceed to set up. I'm the only mother on the trip this time around, so I remind them all (for the first time!) to call their Mother's for Mother's Day. Delighted to hear that many of them already have!

Setting up always sounds like a simple process, but invariably, some of the group are done in half an hour, some take all day. We tell them all that we want to see them all in the convention centre lobby at 1 pm, regardless of what stage they are at. Nick has a media interview scheduled, so Spencer is to take him back to the hotel to do that on Skype.

Every year I threaten to bring a pedometer and actually measure how far we walk on set up day. Between several trips back and forth between hotel and convention centre, and then the circuitous route through the 24 projects over and over again, it’s a day for comfortable shoes indeed. And, truthfully, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to know how far I’ve walked .. it might just make you more tired than you already feel! Communicating with walkie-talkies, cell phones (and some days, it just feels like telepathy!) we manage to get all the kids projects up. As the students finish, they go find some other Canadian student to help.

At 1, there are only three projects that have not completed their safety checks, so we decide to all head out for lunch together, then a couple of the chaperones will head back with the remaining students to finish the safety checks after lunch.

Leanne and Dustin have scouted out the Panini Café. We wait about 25 minutes for tables, and wind up breaking up into five different smaller groups to eat. HUGE portions of salads, dip platters and paninis, and we are all totally stuffed. Leanne eyes one of the dip platters from another table, and the kids bring it over to us after they are finished.

After lunch, we head back to the hotel and find that the gang from Montreal have just arrived and are checking in. I introduce some of the chaperones from the other teams who haven’t met each other before (while all of the other chaperones except Caroline have come to ISEF before, they haven’t all come to the same fairs .. Ray and I have been here for five straight years. Caroline has been to a lot of Canada Wide fairs)

The Montreal group head out for lunch, Ray and I head back to the convention centre to do safety checks, and the other chaperones settle in to listen to presentations. We ask the students to sign up for a time slot, then have them present their projects for feedback and questions. There are no real safety check issues, so Ray and the students head back, while I head off to an Advisory Council meeting.

Every year I threaten to bring a pedometer and actually measure how far we walk on set up day. Between several trips back and forth between hotel and convention centre, and then the circuitous route through the 24 projects over and over again, it’s a day for comfortable shoes indeed. And, truthfully, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to know how far I’ve walked .. it might just make you more tired than you already feel!

Ray collects a student from each of the three Canadian Fairs, and they head back to the Convention Centre to make the Canada “Shout Out” poster. As part of the opening ceremonies, each country is announced, and a student representative carries the poster from their country on stage. It is one of the most colourful and creative segments of the entire week, and a huge favourite among the students.

The kids have now had a chance to look through their registration packages, and discover a special surprise for the week .. the Wednesday night host city dinner is going to be held at Universal Studios! They have closed the park to all but the ISEF delegates, and we’re going to have dinner and spend the evening there.

The students are very excited about the Pin Exchange. They are to have dinner there, so head off as a group across the street to the Marriott hotel for the evening. As a member of the IISEF Advisory Council, I’m invited to a special dinner at Wolfgang Puck, and allowed to bring a “date”, so Ray and I head over there.

We arrive back at the hotel at 9 pm, the same time as the kids do. Some of them got so carried away having fun mixing, mingling and trading pins that they actually forgot to eat! Leanne, Spencer and Dustin head to a supermarket down the street and return with bottled water, fresh fruit, chips, and cookies. We order some pizza from a place next door, and the party moves up to Leanne and Caroline’s room on the 6th floor.

Someone has to get up early in the morning to accompany Vivienne to the convention centre to complete some administrative paperwork connected with an AP exam she has to write later today. I offer to do that, if one of the other chaperones agrees to do my bed checks later so that I can go to sleep. Offer readily accepted by just about everyone else!