Science Faculty in its Element at Annual Science Open House

Thursday, October 31, 2019

This past Saturday, the University of Waterloo science buildings were filled with laughter, smiles, and exclamations of discovery, as families from the Kitchener-Waterloo community gathered for a day of curiosity-driven exploration and experimentation. The annual Science Open House and Gem and Mineral Show drew large crowds to UWaterloo.

This event showcased each of the departments within the Faculty of Science. Budding biologists could explore a giant cell model, extract DNA, and take a peek at the microscopic world of cells and bacteria. Biology also provided activities giving insight to plant research and identification, pollinators, and fish research happening in the department.

Child and parents exploring a giant model nucleus.

Making art using centripetal force, and creating flying butterflies from static electricity were a couple of the activities that the physics department offered for children to investigate some common physics principles from everyday life in a new way. Light was also featured in several activities and exhibits, including “racing the speed of light” and optical illusions provided by the School of Optometry.

Blurred child running in front of a "Race the speed of light" display.

The Gem and Mineral annually occurs in conjunction with the Science Open House, bringing community members to browse the extensive collections of beautiful gems, minerals, and jewelry on sale from a variety of vendors this year. Visitors could even bring in their own gems for identification. The Earth Sciences Museum opened all of its exhibits and offered special activities showing water flow, minerals in common materials, and earthquake-safe structures.

Child and parent looking at minerals at the Gem and Mineral Show.

Some of the most memorable highlights of Science Open House this year, however, are related to chemistry. The United Nations declared 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table, inspiring the Faculty to spearhead the creation of a new international exhibit focused on the discovery of each element. This project, the Timeline of Elements, is a gathering of artwork from students in 118 schools from 28 different countries, depicting each element and its discovery. A 16-meter long version of this timeline was unveiled on Saturday, alongside a mosaic of Dmitri Mendeleev (made of community-illustrated images of Mendeleev), and interactive exhibit panels showcasing the discovery tools and methods of some of the elements.

Child standing and looking at a mosaic of Dmitri Mendeleev.

“The Science Open House and the Timeline of the Elements exhibit both celebrate the spirit of discovery that we encourage here in the Faculty of Science,” says Corina McDonald, Museum Curator for Waterloo’s Faculty of Science. “The stories of discovery of the elements are fascinating, and have been depicted in such creative ways in the exhibit! It’s a beautiful learning resource, which we hope to share with not only our students, but the broader community as well.”

Group photo of some Faculty of Science faculty and staff.