Shad and the NRC: Inspiring young minds

- Ottawa, Ontario

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is proud to help fund Shad Canada's month-long program through their Outreach Initiative grant, which allows over 1,000 students to learn directly from Canada's leading researchers. Through their annual summer program, Shad gives grade 10 and 11 students the opportunity to learn more about science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) with an emphasis on entrepreneurship.

The program aims to inspire young minds to pursue excellence, and for over 14 years, Shad students have benefited from the NRC's immersive and integrative approach to learning. At the forefront of scientific research, the NRC is eager to share its wealth of expertise through special guest speakers, laboratory tours, mentorship and more.

This year, in-person sessions resumed to provide students with guided tours of the NRC's research centres. Virtual sessions were also offered to ensure that students could learn from our key speakers across the country. Shad and the NRC share a similar goal: to serve Canadians through innovation and collaboration, to create lasting impact and to empower people to be change-makers.

Responding to modern challenges

Recognizing that mental and physical health play a key role in achieving potential, Shad focused on care as this year's theme. For their design projects, students were tasked with identifying, understanding and developing pitches and prototypes for issues that support health and wellness.

To provide insight on the latest developments in medicine, speakers from the NRC's Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre (HHT) presented biological technology solutions aimed at helping people worldwide. Kasandra Bélanger, Research Officer, HHT, explains how she is an advocate of the program: "Young students represent the next generation of scientists. It's our duty to spike their interest and develop their passion."

Collaboration with students, Canadian enterprises, academia and industry partners is key to technological progress in addressing unmet medical needs. "By combining our approaches and strengthening our communication, we can make real and significant advances," says Umberto Banderali, Research Officer, HHT.

Progress through time

Last year, Shad's program theme was water. The NRC's Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre (OCRE) helped young people understand the complexities of Canadian waterways, including ice engineering, autonomous ship building and physical modelling. Before participating in a session with OCRE coastal engineers, Shad student Avni A. was not even aware that such a profession existed. Exposure to the many ways in which we can help solve problems has sparked passion in researchers and students alike, because evolving situations present new challenges that require innovative solutions.

While examining questions to address the future of Canadian waterways, technical progress has also helped us look back in time. The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) is the most advanced telescope ever built. Researchers at the NRC's Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre (HAA) have contributed to the science and instrumentation of Webb, and were excited to include Shad students in studying the origins of the universe. "Understanding how planets form is one step towards understanding how humans came about, and understanding our place in this wonderful universe," explains Wes Fraser, Research Officer, HAA. "Programs like Shad are important because they help inspire the question-asker."

Fostering talent through trust

Throughout the years, Shad and the NRC have encouraged students to become their authentic selves because empowerment helps us combine each unique perspective to build community. Expert mentorship allows students to discover their interests and recognize their talents, and Shad program leaders say that the experience is a positive connection for all participants.

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