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  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am

POWERBALLER — Paul Kane student Avtar Mandaher works on a prototype robot for the school's upcoming performance in the Edmonton Science Olympics. The robot is part of the Powerball challenge which has student teams compete to see whose robot can collect the most ping-pong balls in the shortest time period. Mandaher said his team hoped to add a catapult to their machine, as it would let them reach higher point goals.
POWERBALLER — Paul Kane student Avtar Mandaher works on a prototype robot for the school's upcoming performance in the Edmonton Science Olympics. The robot is part of the Powerball challenge which has student teams compete to see whose robot can collect the most ping-pong balls in the shortest time period. Mandaher said his team hoped to add a catapult to their machine, as it would let them reach higher point goals.
KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

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Science Olympians go for gold

St. Albert students will match wits with some of the region’s top junior scientists next week as they compete for Olympic gold.

The 2014 Edmonton Science Olympics are being held this March 1 at the Shaw Conference Centre. Sponsored by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), the event draws students in grades 1 to 12 from across the Edmonton region together for a contest of applied science.

The Olympics are meant to get students interested in science and scientific careers, says event co-ordinator Jeanne Keaschuk.

About 101 five-member teams are expected to take part, Keaschuk says.

Four St. Albert schools will take part in the event, including École Marie Poburan, Sir George Simpson, Ronald Harvey and Paul Kane.

Each will have to complete several challenges based on the Alberta science curriculum. Some are done in advance, while others are mystery challenges that aren’t revealed until the day of the competition.

Team Simpson has had to make a model of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine using only materials that would have been available to him at the time, says coach Megan Girard.

Their current model uses wooden dowels, toothpicks, unbleached paper and honey. “Originally we tried flour and water glue, but it doesn’t work quite as well as honey.”

They also have to design a weight-bearing dome from a maximum of 250 popsicle sticks, she continues. “It’s proving to be difficult,” she says, as they’re running out of sticks.

Paul Kane will field three squads at this year’s event with hopes of a repeat of last year’s gold medal performance, says team coach Michael Ng. Two of those squads are rookies, and will have to learn how to pool their skills if they are to be successful.

Veteran team member Avtar Mandaher is working on the team’s robot for the Powerball challenge.

“The robots have to drive around and pick up ping-pong balls and put them in goals,” he explains, with different amounts of points awarded based on the colour of the ball. Their current prototype is basically a mobile tray or scoop. The team plans to add a catapult to lob balls into the goal net, as that’s worth more points.

“We’ve got a few more tricks with this thing,” he says.

Mandaher says he and a lot of his fellow veterans are looking forward to this year’s event.

“I like building things and solving problems,” he says. “This kind of event appeals to me.”

Events such as this teach students the value of teamwork, research and communication, Girard says.

“A lot of the kids are really intelligent, so I think it’s good for them to come up against some challenges.”

She hopes the students have fun next weekend. “Hopefully, they will also notice how science is really valued in our society.”

The Science Olympics run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Keaschuk at 780-426-3990 ext. 2366 for details.

Hockey marathon

St. Albert Catholic High students will hit the ice next week to support cancer research through a two-day hockey marathon.

Feb. 27 and 28 is the fourth annual Hockey and Ringette Marathon at St. Albert Catholic High. Students will hold a non-stop hockey and ringette tournament from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days to raise $6,500 for the Cross Cancer Institute.

This year’s event is linked to the school’s ongoing Hawks Have Heart campaign for cancer research, says marathon co-ordinator Paige Gaudreau.

They’ve also added two ringette teams to the event this year, she continues. Each game will be two periods long, with one period of hockey and one of ringette during mixed matches. All matches will take place at the Mission rink next to the school, and are open to the public.

The match schedule should be available later this week, Gaudreau says.


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