Chapter 1: Training and Beta-Tour

It’s funny how things end up the way they do. For instance, I never thought I would ever work for a physics research center. It’s not my area of expertise and I remember clearly avoiding it in high school (which is a shame). But somehow, despite my best efforts to turn my back on physics, I kept coming back to it because of the questions I started asking. Where do we come from? What is life? How did our universe form? I am amazed by the tangible nature we can see but more bewildered by phenomenon we can not see easily. It is that sense of mystery and wonder which has led me to see the parallel between psychology/neuroscience and physics. The human brain is a complex machine that we still do not fully understand and our understanding of matter and how it behaves is yet to be complete. I am in constant awe of the brilliant minds that work on understanding the mechanisms at play from the smallest to the largest scale in our cosmos.

To be a part of a team traveling all across the country engaging youth and families in science was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I could not miss out on. So, you can imagine my excitement when I received the job offer. Before I knew it, I was at Perimeter Institute (PI) in Waterloo, ON, meeting new faces, absorbing copious amounts of information and integrating myself into my soon to be family on the road. I could not have asked for a better team: a marine biologist and pop culture queen from my science communication program, a quantum physicist and musician who loves lasers and stringed instruments, a crocheting A/V tech who owns almost all video game consoles and a passionate science educator with some serious guitar talent. We’re pretty much ready to take on anything that comes our way.

The tour itself consists of two parts for us: the presentation and the traveling exhibit. The script was created by a team at PI and focuses on innovation, particularly its importance and how we can become innovative. The interactive segment, stunning visuals and our inspiring script connects with the audience and demonstrates that anyone can be an innovator. Despite having a script, we still get a chance to make it our own by for example, talking about our own experiences or initiating a discussion with the audience.

Engaging with the audience (Image by Rebecca H.)

Engaging with the audience (Image by Rebecca H.)

We are also responsible for setting up the exhibit, doing physics demonstrations, engaging the visitors and also tearing down the exhibit. Since the Ontario Science Center (OSC) designed the exhibit in collaboration with PI, we were sent there to get a perspective on the thought process behind it all. We learned how the exhibits worked, how to take them apart, put them back together and package them for travel. For more details on the exhibit, click on the “Traveling Exhibit” tab on the menu above.
Front of exhibit

Front of exhibit

Setting up the exhibit at PI

Setting up the exhibit at PI

Our pilot test was done at PI followed by a wonderful beta-tour to Georgetown and Pickering. This test run was really good because it provided a way for us to see how we worked as a group and how to overcome unforeseen challenges. Georgetown was our very first stop on our beta-tour and it provided tremendous insight on what it would be like to be on the road. Despite having a big gym for exhibit set-up, we had to be creative with where we were getting our power, since not all the outlets were functioning. In addition, we still had heavy carts that held our screen panels and a moving team that was assisting us. So, technically, we weren’t entirely on our own. We faced some set-backs with malfunctioning exhibits, but were able to provide temporary fixes until we could get someone to tackle the root of the problem.
The joys of packaging awkward shaped exhibits (Image by Rebecca H.)

The joys of packaging awkward shaped exhibits (Image by Rebecca H.)

First successful set-up at Georgetown

First successful set-up at Georgetown

Pickering was a much more independent experience – we were completely on our own as we offloaded the truck and set up the exhibit and presentation equipment. We also received much lighter carts and had techs come in from OSC to fix our exhibit glitches which made the experience run smoothly. The only real obstacle during exhibit set-up was getting around the large pillars which were in the space. A problem we encountered in the presentation space was the lack of cellphone reception, which meant that our interactive activity would not work accordingly. So, we had to come up with another way to deliver the activity without the technology and that ended up being just as effective.
Students at Pine Ridge Secondary (Pickering) engaging with the exhibit

Students at Pine Ridge Secondary (Pickering) engaging with the exhibit

Overall, I think the training was pretty solid. I’m stoked for the new year. Now, to practice that presentation…

Stay tuned for more updates as I travel across Canada!

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