Science Rendezvous

Science Rendezvous is an annual science festival in Canada.  Its inaugural event happened across the Greater Toronto Area on Saturday, May 10th 2008. By 2011 the event had gone national, with participation from research institutes, Universities, science groups and the public from all across Canada – from Vancouver to St. John’s. Science Rendezvous is a registered not-for-profit organization. . .This free all-day event aims to highlight and promote great science in Canada. The target audience is the general public, parents, children and youth, with an ultimate aim of improving enrollment and investment in sciences and technology in the future.

-excerpt from Wikipedia

YEAR 1 (2010): BACTERIA ARE EVERYWHERE

My first involvement with Science Rendezvous was in my first year at Ryerson, in 2010.  I volunteered for Dr. Kim Gilbride in the microbiology section where we created interactive games to add to the microbe games section.  I brainstormed with my sister and she helped develop the ideas (we mostly got our inspiration from the old YTV show “Uh Oh!”).  One of the things we came up with were giant microscope slides (made of picture frame glass) that had a picture of bacteria species you would see under the microscope.  I also made small sculptures to accompany the slides to show the different morphologies they exhibit in three-dimension so they can touch and interact with the shapes.  The other one was a game called pathogen finder (which I have some pictures of).

Pathogen Finder Game

Pathogen Finder Game

Basically, the idea is that you can find bacteria everywhere: in soil, in water and even in food.  We’ve hidden various bacteria sculptures in the trays along with other random things (gummy worms, TOY HORSE?!, sea shells) and the kids are supposed to dig for them and find all the different morphology types that they saw earlier with the slides and sculptures.  So, this kid in the picture is my favourite because unlike the other kids who couldn’t wait to get stained and dirty, he picked up two pens and gingerly started sifting through the muck.  It was too cute.  This picture is actually from Science Rendezvous 2011, where it made its second debut.

My friend Agnes taking over the shift and supervising the mayhem

 

YEAR 2 (2011): GOOD BACTERIA, BAD BACTERIA

In Science Rendezvous 2011, I volunteered for Dr. Gilbride and Dr. Martina Hausner.  This time, we decided upon the topic of probiotics.  Most people think of bacteria as pathogenic but it’s not always the case.  On the contrary, most bacteria are naturally found in human gut flora and are beneficial to human health (helping with digestion and keeping pathogens out, for example).  So, my friend Nande and I got working on the probiotics project.  At first, we were going to build a puppet show about probiotics, but we ran into a hypothetical logistical problem: ATTENTION SPAN (We know the attention span of kids. I, having worked in summer camps as a teen, and Nande as a gymnastics trainer for very young girls).  At that point, our friend Agnes walked passed the hallway as we were making the backdrop cardboard.  She said “hey, what are you guys doing?”  and we told her about the puppet show.  Then she said “Oh!  I thought it was some kind of game where you shoot stuff inside the square!”

Bad Germs Be Gone!

Bad Germs Be Gone!

So, Nande and I looked at each other and thought, HEY THAT IS ACTUALLY SO MUCH BETTER!!! So we re-painted the cardboard into a stomach and hanging in the middle is a purple pathogenic “bug” that the kids will throw green “probiotics” at to knock it out of the stomach.  These were painted styrofoam balls on a skewer so they had great aerodynamics (it happened incidentally of course…we’re scientists, not engineers! It was just a matter of evolution).

This little girl was pretty good at aiming.  Check that out.  Bulls eye.  Nande looks impressed.

NOTEWORTHY ACCOMPLISHMENT: ACQUIRED SPONSORSHIP FROM GIANTMICROBES

This year, I also asked GiantMicrobes to sponsor our little microbiology section.  They gave us these microbe plush toy giveaways FOR FREE!  I was so happy because the original plan was to buy a few from the local gift shop, but apparently if you call companies and justify why they should sponsor your event, they will actually do it.  So give it a shot!

A NANDE AND KAREN MASTERPIECE

Here is a mini-intro we did…but only the parents cared to read it.

Cool story:  The creator of GiantMicrobes was a former Harvard Law Student until he found his true calling in science outreach and education.  Top that!

A COLLAGE OF GIANTMICROBES WINNERS…THERE WERE A WHOLE BUNCH MORE BUT YOU GET THE IDEA 😉

Some of the GiantMicrobes winners

YEAR 3 (2012): BACTERIA LIVE IN COMMUNITIES

Then in my co-op 3rd year, I volunteered for Dr. Laursen in the environmental ecology section.  We decided to make Microbial Fuel Cells that could power toy cars and to demonstrate the various microbes involved in that process, I made various Winogradsky Columns.  Well, reality check:  A giant Winogradsky Column will not generate any visible anaerobic microorganism for years (probably), so I had to draw them on the column!  Except for the algae, they were doing exceptionally well.

Anyway, sadly I never actually made it to the event because my late grandpa got really sick during that time, so my family flew back home to see him.  It’s too bad, because that year it was held in Dundas Square (which is Toronto’s cute attempt to have a Times Square…but it’s awesome anyway).  So, once again, the sculptures made their comeback.  I gotta get some new material!  This is getting too repetitive!

HERE THEY ARE, ESPECIALLY BIG JUST FOR KICKS!

photo (10) photo (8) photo (11) photo (12) photo (7) photo (6) photo (13)

HERE THEY ARE IN ORDER.  TOP TO BOTTOM: AEROBES, MICROAEROPHILES AND ANAEROBES

Bacterial Composition in a Winogradsky Column

This summer, I am looking forward to making some Extracellular Polymeric Substances with Jello and CANDIES!!!  I’m going to volunteer with Dr. Wolfaardt, whom I am honoured to be working with in the winter semester as a Research Assistant *nerdy senses are tingling!!!* –O-O–  Science cannot get any more awesome.  OR CAN IT!?

YEAR 4 (2013): BACTERIA LIVE IN CITIES

This summer, Science Rendezvous 2013 was held for the second time in Dundas Square.  This time, I was actually able to attend and I must say it was the most amazing one yet!

So, this year, I volunteered for Dr. Wolfaardt to make a biofilm sculpture.  It was challenging in many aspects.

First, biofilm was hard to visualize.  Most visual data out there are 2D confocal images (slices or planes of the 3D image) and the 3D rendering are too zoomed in to really get a good sense of what they look like on a meso scale.  So, before even getting my hands dirty I had to compile a decent amount of literatures that had pictures I could stare at.  After sufficient staring, I started to plan my materials.

2013-05-09 14.37.41

My friend Marie and I went to Bulk Barn to collect ingredients: gelatin for EPS, sprinkles, mustard seeds and black rice for a healthy community of bacteria.  We also picked up some alginate and plaster of paris to make a mould and cast of my hand holding a tiny bit of slime.  The idea was that the biofilm sculpture was going to be the “zoomed in” version of the biofilm within the slime.

Then we got right down to business!

Casting my hand with alginate

Casting my hand with alginate

 

I casted my hand with alginate as the mold and plaster of paris as the cast.  This was used to present a handful of “sand” from the beach and the biofilm sculpture was the “zooming into the microscopic world”.

 

 

 

 

 

To make this hollow biofilm 3D structure, I used three upside down styrofoam cups and bit off the edges and flattened them out a little by cutting the body vertically so they looked like hollow mountains.  I drilled a hole in the middle of the glass bowl and inserted some LED lights to light the inside of the “biofilm cave” and pulled the wire through and attached button batteries underneath.  Then I glued piece by piece the remnants of the alginate mold, liberally applied sprinkles, seeds, food colouring for the goopy bacteria effect.  This is pretty close to what biofilms looks like if constructed with a confocal microscope.

BIOFILMS: A MICROBIAL CITY

Pretty close to the real thing!

Pretty close to the real thing!

 

 

 

 

You can see the tunnels that bacteria create so that they can diffuse oxygen, nutrients and transport waste pretty easily throughout their "microbial city"

You can see the tunnels that bacteria create so that they can diffuse oxygen, nutrients and transport waste pretty easily throughout their “microbial city”