Canada’s first woman in space visits Manitoulin Island schools

The Wikwemikong First Robotics Team 5672 meets with Dr. Bondar who took time after her presentation to meet with them personally to hear about their robotics challenges. photo by Giselle Aiabens

WIIKWEMKOONG—In the last stop on her multi-community speaking tour of Northern Ontario, Dr. Roberta Bondar, in partnership with Science North, visited Wasse Abin Wikwemikong High School last week to deliver a presentation promoting the Ontario 150 Bondar Challenge. The ‘Challenge’ is a nature-based photo challenge geared toward connecting people to nature. Dr. Bondar delivered her three-part presentation to a full house.

As one would expect from Canada’s first woman in space, Dr. Bondar began her presentation with a discussion regarding her own experience in space, including a short video clip of the space shuttle Discovery launch. She talked about space exploration in general as well as ongoing exploration of the planet Mars, a topic that clearly fascinated the student audience. In the second part of her presentation, Dr. Bondar delivered an overview of the Ontario 150 Bondar Challenge, stressing that it is very important to her that everyone “understands the importance of our natural environment (and) what it means to us going forward in Canada.” She pointed to the fact that we all have cameras on our phones and have a love for taking photos, which, coupled with the importance of connecting to nature, makes for a natural and easy to accomplish challenge. In the final part of her talk, she invited members of the audience to join her on stage to ask questions. Questions ranged from those regarding simple life necessities, such as how to eat in space to those regarding the more complex requirements of how to become an astronaut.

The crowd of enthusiastic students and community members were not disappointed as Dr. Bondar took time to meet with them after the presentation, signing autographs and posing for photos. One group that was especially excited to meet Dr. Bondar was the Wikwemikong First Robotics Team 5672 and Chris Mara, the team’s coach. Dr. Bondar met with the team and team member Mary Pangowish expressed that meeting Dr. Bondar was a big highlight for her and that she was especially excited by how impressed Dr. Bondar was with the accomplishments of the robotics team.

Dr. Roberta Bondar delivers a presentation promoting the Ontario 150 Bondar Challenge to students and community members at Wikwemikong High School.

“She was really impressed with us,” Ms. Pangowish explained, further commenting that she thought that perhaps Dr. Bondar didn’t expect “that good of a robotics team from such a small school with only about 200 kids.” Ms. Pangowish characterized meeting Dr. Bondar as further inspiration to be on the Robotics team.

The Ontario 150 Bondar Challenge is open to all individuals and is an opportunity to express, through photography, what you appreciate about your community’s natural environment, which you would like to still exist in 150 years from now. More details about the challenge can be found on the Roberta Bodnar Foundation’s website.