Wolfville, N.S., youth win big with UFO project during Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge

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WOLFVILLE, N.S. — Wolfville youth John Dyment and Esme Black proved they can work under pressure during the recent Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge.

The two winning Grade 7 students showed an engaging sense of humour when they competed. The duo placed first out of more than 50 intermediate teams competing in the national challenge, and sixth overall out of 125 registered students.

They created a video featuring a UFO style rocket ship that scooted around a roller coaster. Since they used a magnet, the little UFO practically levitates.

The Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge is a series of six virtual competitions hosted by TeamUP Science, which combines science, technology, engineering, the arts and math for youth. There are two age categories for students in Grades 6-9 to compete in.

The Wolfville pair were the overall Weekend 2 winners, taking the high score across all sprint, intermediate, and marathon tasks for the initial competition weekend.

They were also the overall intermediate winners with the highest score across all intermediate challenges for youth competing in the four grade levels. These challenges are 30 minutes long and involve solving virtual escape rooms and using remote collaboration averaged over the November and February weekends.

During Weekend 1, Dyment and Black also captured the highest score on the marathon challenge. This challenge was released on the CyberSTEAM website at midnight. Students then had the entire day to complete it and then presented it for judging at the closing showcase during the November weekend.

Timing was everything during the two weekends.

Dyment said they often had between 10 and 30 minutes to complete a challenge with the allowed materials.

“You had to be on your feet,” he said, “because you virtually had no time.”

Duct tape and cardboard were vital supplies. Black said after the first weekend, they joked about stocking up on more. Lego was also useful for creating aliens who cheered on their UFO.

Black said the two friends were really happy with their wins because they both enjoy the challenge of problem-solving.

“There’s no training. You just make a time commitment,” said Dyment.

“For a 14-hour day,” added Black. “There’s no breaks. You have to eat and concentrate.”

Dyment noted that having natural intelligence and persistence helps. The prize they chose as winners was a drone.

“John and Esme designed a spaceship that could safely land on a faraway planet, and created a video to welcome aliens to Earth for their Weekend 1 Marathon, relating to the theme of ‘Inside and Outside the Earth,’” said Simran Parmar, judge for the marathon submission in February.

“They were really prepared and I couldn’t find a flaw in their presentation or on their model,” added Parmar, noting the pair were “super enthusiastic, and had positive energy. Their presentation was hilarious, they had a lot of jokes about the kinds of sounds they used.”

Parmar was a marathon challenge designer.

Putting Wolfville on the map

Wolfville native Jessica Bennett was rooting for her home team from quite a distance.

A first-year medical student at the University of Alberta, Bennett was instrumental in initiating the Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge, serving as the group’s founder and current interim president.

She said the national competition aims to challenge rural students to present on Zoom. There is even a portion when they work with other teams virtually in break-out rooms.

Speaking about Dyment and Black, she said, “They woke up and spent the whole day working on their roller coaster presentation. I’m very proud of them putting Wolfville on the map. Lots of people have no idea where Wolfville is.”

Part of the Horton High School Brain Wars team when she was a student locally, Bennett competed at Saint Mary’s University. According to her teacher Tracy Webb, eventually she co-directed the school event competitions prior to graduating.

Bennett has been involved in STEAM advocacy projects for the past eight years, with the Canada CyberSTEAM Challenge (known as C3) being the 10th large-scale interdisciplinary STEAM competition she has organized.

She was inspired to found C3 in order to provide an easy-to-access platform for students across Canada to explore the possibilities of STEAM from their own homes.

C3 is a national online competition aimed at encouraging students in Grades 6 through 12 to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems involving science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

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