Wikwemikong science team places third at engineering meet

Wikwemikong High School Science Olympic team in front of the iron ring, the symbol of the engineer. Front row, from left, Annie Wemigwans, Reynold Assiniwe and Mr. Mara (coach), back row, Raven Manitowabi, Raoul Mandamin, Tim Pitawanakwat, Eugenia Eshkawkogan, Eileen Letander-Trudeau and Noah Jacko.

HAMILTON— The students of Wikwemikong High School have once again proved themselves to be science powerhouses on the high school stage as they recently took a third place finish at the McMaster Engineering and Science Olympics held earlier this month.

Students Reynold Assiniwe, Raven Manitowabi, Eugenie Eshkawkogan, Annie Wemigwans and teacher, Chris Mara, gathered to share their story of success and a weekend of science and engineering with The Expositor.

On October 8 the Wikwemikong High School Science Olympics team competed against 54 high schools and over 1,300 students—the only school from Northern Ontario to attend and the only all First Nations school.

“We took third place in the Canada arm build,” Mr. Mara began.

The students explained that they were given 100 straws and tasked with trying to make the longest arm that would hold a 100-gram weight while the arm was held off the edge of a table.

“It seemed to be unique,” Reynold said of their design. “It blew away the competition in that heat,” Mr. Mara added.

“It looked like a canoe and a (construction) crane mixed together,” Raven explained. “It was the shape of a canoe but the inside is supported by the shape of a crane.”

The arm was 85 centimetres in length and easily held the 100-gram weight for over 10 seconds.

“It was, like, solid,” Reynold enthused.

“The judges were very impressed and clapping,” Raven said.

“And they were surprised to see the weight get dropped,” Reynold added, saying the weight was not “gently placed” like the rest of the teams did.

“And they finished (the build) with five minutes to spare,” their teacher said.

Following the McMaster competition, the team packed up and headed to North Bay for Space Week where they, also members of the Wikwemikong High School Robotics Team, had been invited as guests of the North Bay robotics team.

Wikwemikong High School Science Olympic Team during the arm build. From left is Raven Manitowabi, Tim Pitawanakwat, and Reynold Assiniwe.
Wikwemikong High School Science Olympic Team during the arm build. From left is Raven Manitowabi, Tim Pitawanakwat, and Reynold Assiniwe.

Mr. Mara explained that as a member of the United States First Robotic League, part of the mandate is to perform outreach on robotics. The two teams set up shop and gave demonstrations with their robots, answered questions from passersby, and were even invited to a special gala with astronaut, Chris Hadfield. The team also met Jayme Matthews, the scientist who developed the MOST Space Telescope—the first space telescope to be entirely developed and built in Canada. The students also took in a lecture by Mr. Matthews on the discovery of planets outside of our solar system.

“I enjoyed my time, but it was exhausting,” Eugenie said.

To add to a whirlwind weekend, while the team was in North Bay they received word from the president of Metal Supermarkets that they would be coming on as a major sponsor for the school’s robotics team (Team 5672). This means Metal Supermarkets will be a sponsor both in cash and metal.

“This really gave us a pre-build season momentum,” Mr. Mara said. “This is crucial, especially for such an isolated team.”

As far as the third place finish in Hamilton is concerned, “this is a real accomplishment that the students can be very proud of,” the teacher added. “Wikwemikong has always strongly and actively promoted First Nations involvement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming.”