THE BLOG

It's Time to Encourage And Nurture Our Youngest Scientists

02/21/2014 04:45 EST | Updated 04/23/2014 05:59 EDT

I know how important it is to encourage and nurture discovery because I was once a pint-sized scientist.

At three, I was so fascinated by my parent's radio, that I would spend hours taking it apart, trying to understand the inner workings.

My active curiosity drove my parents crazy but that was the least of their worries.

When I won the young engineering award at elementary school, I continued to keep my parents on their toes.

Continuing my curiosity for the sciences, I blew up the bathroom in our Jackson, New Jersey home four years later, with a chemistry set supplemented with household chemicals.

I was a curious kid who wasn't afraid to experiment. In fact, I went through a bit of a phase where I would build homemade rockets and launch my hamster, Chuck Yeager, high up into the air about 1000 feet. Before you get too concerned, please know that he was equipped with a parachute and foam couch and always made it back to his cage in one piece. He retired from the space program at the end of the summer and lived to ripe old age of four, in the luxury of my bedroom.

As time has passed, my curiosity about nature and networks has continued to grow. I have, however, refined my methods since the hamster days! I've been fortunate to work with some of the brightest minds in science on revolutionary discoveries and I am thrilled to be in Alberta, leading the team at Ingenuity Lab. We have so much to learn and share.

Lifelong learning is something that is very important to me.

I'm eager to explore fresh concepts and acquire new skills and I want to help others around me do the same. I recognize that there is a clear connection between education and prosperity. Education reduces poverty, improves health outcomes and enhances a country's economic growth. It's pretty simple really. Societies who develop young minds and build knowledge capacity outperform those who don't.

Our province's ongoing success depends on investments in young Albertans. In time, these children will be our leaders, discovering solutions to our greatest challenges and improving our quality of life.

While the return on investment is easy to identify, explaining nanotechnology to little ones isn't always as straightforward. We work in a complex field and it is difficult for both children and adults to understand something they can't see or touch.

This is something I hope to change.

Ingenuity Lab launched Scopey's Nano Adventure this month. I'm really proud of this interactive application which is specially designed to help budding scientists wrap their heads around the opportunities at the nanoscale.

Guided by a clever cartoon microscope named Scopey, children between five and 10 can zoom-in on the tiny science that has inspired me for so many years, complete with animated tutorials and teachable moments, make learning fun. It's an educational application that parents and science educators can utilize to support the myriad of learning environments that exist today.

The application is available on IOS (via the Apple store) and Android devices (via the Google store) and is free for Canadian users. My vision of Scopey's Nano Adventure is that it will become a comprehensive educational toolset that will expand with new levels that are tied to our research projects. We're already working on the next two levels and exploring potential collaborations with industry and educational organizations.

Forgive the plug but I can't help myself. This is truly an exciting development that holds great potential for parents, teachers and children all over. And Scopey is bringing together some of my favourite things - learning and nanotechnology - so it is hard to keep me quiet.