Awakening the love of math and science

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Imperial Oil Charitable Foundation has made a commitment of $500,000 in support of the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Education to promote two programs designed to spark Canadian students' interest in science, mathematics and technology.

Imperial Oil recognizes a very troubling trend in Canada where the youth are not pursuing careers in math, sciences and technology, says Mnica Samper, President of Imperial Oil Foundation. We are a science-based company and we understand the need to develop the youth and spark their interest in pursuing careers in this field. We feel very strongly it is our corporate obligation to support these efforts.

Monica Samper, President of Imperial Oil Foundation (left) and Jennifer Hinton, Faculty of Engineering Summer Academy Coordinator, visit the Mechatronics & Robotics Lab in the Faculty of Engineering, where an autonomous mining robotic vehicle and base guitar-playing robot were created by Western students.

The Engineering Summer Academy will receive $450,000. The Academy will run in July and August and will challenge ambitious high school students in math and science, encouraging them to explore concepts beyond their regular secondary school curriculum in preparation for university study.

Some program ideas include working with environmentally friendly products and processes, mechatronics, robotics and designing a computer game.

The Math Performance Festival in the Faculty of Education will receive $50,000. Led by Professor George Gadanidis, this program engages elementary school students in a celebration of mathematics through poetry, music, art, dance and theatre. Entries into the festival will be adjudicated by singer/songwriters Susan Aglukark, Tracy Bone and Bob Hallett, as well as novelist and filmmaker Douglas Coupland, and co-host/producer of Daily Planet, Jay Ingram.

Gadanidis says the Festival gives students the opportunity to experience mathematics as a beautiful thing and in turn will hopefully allow the rest of us to experience the beauty as well. He notes the funding from Imperial Oil Foundation will allow them to evaluate the project, which will be in its second year.

It will add an element that was missing, which was the evaluation part, he says. Now well have funding for a graduate student to track the project and see how its making a difference in schools.

Imperial Oil has been a major contributor to the growth of the petroleum industry and to Canada's economic and social development for more than 125 years. Since 2004, the Imperial Oil Foundation has invested approximately $3 million each year to Building Futures, a company program that supports education and skills development in Canada.