CAGIS Virtual
Past Events (2020-2021)

Saturday February 13 – The Science of Chocolate

Did you know that the adult body has over 206 bones? Fifty-four of them are just in our hands and wrists!  If you’ve ever seen a skeleton or fossil in a museum, you might think that all bones are dead, but your skeleton is a living, active part of your body.  In fact, all of your blood cells are manufactured inside your bones.  In this session, we will learn more about the surprising composition of bones, and how biomedical engineers design solutions for patients who have injured a bone.  

Materials: String, tape, paper or construction paper, scissors, 8 or more straws (paper or plastic).  If you don’t have straws, we can demonstrate how to roll strips of paper to make straws, but store bought ones would be preferable.
Expert: Dr. Adele Changoor received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from École Polytechnique Montréal, and works at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.

Saturday February 13 – The Science of Chocolate

Did you know that every Valentine’s Day, over 58 million pounds of chocolate are purchased around the world including 36 million heart-shaped chocolate boxes!  Nine out of ten of us say we love chocolate, but have you ever wondered about the science behind this delicious treat?  What is its active ingredient?  What is the difference between chocolate, cocoa, and cacao?  Is it true that chocolate is poisonous for dogs?  Learn the answers to these questions and more, and try making your own chocolate-flavoured treat at home during this very tasty session.

Preparation: Two or more squares of semi-sweet chocolate, or about eight semi-sweet chocolate chips, a pack of chocolate chips, three to five things to mix in of your choice, eg. nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, popcorn, gummies, sour keys.  One of the following: Loaf pan or small glass baking pan or silicone ice cube tray. Additional fun options: sprinkles, white chocolate, crushed mints/candy canes.
Expert: Bonnie Douglas is a food engineer. While she has spent most of her working life working in an ice cream factory, she also spent some time working in a cookie factory.  She also made the world’s tallest ice cream cone!

Saturday February 6 – Send your Code to Space!

We’re participating in the European Space Agency’s Astro Pi Challenge!  Learn to code a simple program that takes a humidity reading on the International Space Station.  Then, customize it with a personalized message for the astronauts on board.  The programs of participants aged 14 and younger will actually be run in space!  At the end, receive a certificate showing where exactly the ISS was when your program ran.

Preparation: The coding can be done in a web browser.  To participate, you will need a computer with an internet connection (not a tablet or mobile device).
Expert: Chimira Andres works for the European Space Agency.  She completed a M.Sc. in Geophysics and Planetary Science at Western University and is also the President of SEDS Canada, a not-for-profit student space organization. 

Saturday January 30 – Chromatography Tie Dye

Have you ever spilled water on a newspaper?  Did you notice that the ink runs and spreads on the page? In this session, we will learn about ink solubility and a laboratory technique called chromatography, which allows you to separate a mixture. Then, we will explore the technique by making a colourful chromatography tie dye project. Join us for some creative chemistry!

Preparation: a few rubber bands, 2-5 plastic cups, a colourful assortment of permanent markers (dollar store ones work well), an eyedropper, 70% or higher isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), white fabric that can be dyed (eg. t-shirt).  You will also want to protect your workspace.
Expert: Carine Nemr is completing her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Toronto.

Saturday January 23 – Renewable Energy.  Clean Tech for the Future

You have heard of renewable energy… but what is it, exactly?  How do you know if the energy you use is renewable or not?  What does an environmental engineer do?  How can green energy help us move toward a low-carbon future?  Explore these questions and build your own renewable energy powered creations at home!

Preparation:  two paper, plastic, or styrofoam cups (paper or styrofoam is preferred), one long wooden skewer, one push pin OR single hole punch, sticky tack (nice to have, but optional), tape, scissors, pencil, ruler, string, paper clip. 

Experts: McMaster’s Women in Engineering Society.


Saturday January 16 – Go with your Gut

They say you are what you eat, but have you ever thought about how your body digests food and turns it into energy? Make your own working stethoscope, and use it to learn about the gastrointestinal system and how doctors observe a healthy digestive tract.

Preparation: two funnels, 60 cm or 24 inches of flexible vinyl or plastic tubing (found at hardware stores; the narrow end of the funnel should fit inside the tubing), tape, two or more balloons, scissors.

If you can’t find tubing or funnels, a simpler stethoscope can be made with the cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll, thick paper (eg. construction paper, cardstock), tape, scissors.   However, the tubing and funnel design is preferred and will produce a better sound.

Expert: Dr. Aze Wilson is a clinical gastroenterologist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Western University.


Saturday December 5 – a STEM Escape (Bonus event)

You’re attending a CAGIS event on biotechnology when the event host asks you and some friends to get some supplies from the storage room. You walk into the room, the door closes and locks behind you.  You’re stuck! You walk further and find that you’re suddenly in the middle of a forest, in a magical, winter wonderland.  Where are you?  How did you get there?  How do you get back?  Use clues and your knowledge of science, technology, trades, engineering, and maths (STEM) to figure out the mystery and find your way back!

This is a bonus event organized by the CAGIS Teen Ambassadors.

Preparation: no preparation necessary



Saturday November 28 – Soap, Shampoo, and Cosmetic Chemistry

You wash your hands every day, but are all soaps created equally?  Do some clean better than others?  Did you know that there is a difference between soap and detergent?  

We will be conducting a cosmetic chemistry experiment to test the performance of the soaps, shampoos, and detergents you have at home!

Preparation: Check back for a list of materials
Expert: Lexie Griffith is a chemist whose work involves formulating cosmetics and personal care products. 



Saturday November 21 – Minerals and Mining

What do you picture when you think of mining?  Diamonds?  Rubies?  Gold?  But what about … toothpaste?!  Before your toothpaste makes it to your toothbrush, the ingredients are extracted from the ground; your toothpaste started out looking like a pile of rocks!   

In this session, we will be making our own toothpaste at home and learning about other every day materials that use minerals from mines. 

Preparation: Click here for a list of materials.

Expert: STEM professionals from Mining Matters, an organization that educates young people about Earth sciences and the minerals industry will be leading the session.


Saturday November 7 – Animal Behaviour with Anne Dagg, the World’s First Giraffologist

Anne Innis Dagg is the world’s first giraffologist.  As a young woman, she travelled to Africa and studied giraffes in the wild.  She published her work in some of the world’s top scientific journals.  Despite her impressive accomplishments, she faced challenges and found the doors of science closed because she was a woman.  Now, 50 years later, she is back in the world of giraffology, the field of science she started!  You will have the opportunity to watch the documentary film about Dr. Dagg before the session.

This session will be a Q&A with Anne Dagg and filmmaker Alison Reid.  It is open to all ages, but CAGIS members will receive question priority.

Preparation (optional): Watch The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, the movie about Anne Innis Dagg. You will receive a link to watch the film before the session.

Saturday November 7 – Animal Behaviour with Anne Dagg, the World’s First Giraffologist

Anne Dagg is the world’s first giraffologist.  As a young woman, she travelled to Africa and studied giraffes in the wild.  She did extensive research, took notes, measurements, photographs, and videos, and published the main textbook about giraffes that is still used today!  In this session, Dr. Dagg will be teaching animal observation skills so you too, can do your own animal observation.

Preparation (optional): Watch The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, the movie about Anne Dagg. You will receive a link to watch the film before the session. 

Saturday October 31 – Halloween, Chemistry, and Glow in the Dark Slime!

It’s Halloween, the lights are low, and all you’ll see are things that glow.

In this session, we will be making glow in the dark SLIME and learning the chemistry of phosphorescence and all things glow-in-the-dark!
Preparation: Click here for a list of materials.  Wear your Halloween costume.  Prize for best costume in each session!
Expert: Dr. Erin McConnell, completed her PhD in Chemistry at Carleton University, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, where she received the NSERC and L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award.

Saturday October 24 – Mobile App Development

What is your favourite app?  Instagram?  Tik Tok?  Snap chat?  Have you ever thought about how the apps are made?  In this session we will learn how to make our own basic applications, or apps for short.

Preparation: You will receive an email with preparation instructions.  You may need to download software in advance.

Expert: Janelle Hinds has been called the Mobile App Queen!  Janelle, who was featured on Forbes’s 2020 Top 30 under 30 list in Education, graduated from McMaster University with a Biomedical and Electrical Engineering degree, and is the Founder of the Helping Hands App, which connects the non-profit sector with willing volunteers. 

Saturday October 17 – Fantastic Fungus!

Have you ever eaten fungus?  Have you ever eaten a mushroom?  Well, mushrooms are a type of fungus, so if you have eaten a mushroom, you have eaten fungus!  In this session we will be going on a virtual walk with plant scientist Sara Stricker to learn about different kinds of fungus like mushrooms, black spot, and more!  We will then break into groups to do an activity that will allow us to see the spores associated with fungus.

Preparation: You will need mushrooms from the grocery store and white paper.  Participants in the younger session will need one or more balloons, one or more sheets of tissue paper, water.  Participants in the older session will need baking yeast, three bottles with narrow openings like a disposable water bottle (identical bottles if possible), 200 ml warm water, and one or more of the following: sugar, pancake syrup, or honey.

Expert: Sara Stricker is a plant scientist and PhD candidate at the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.  She studies plant pathology – diseases that harm plants – and how to defend against them.

Saturday October 3 – DNA extraction at Home!

What colour are your eyes? What colour is your hair?  You look the way you do because of the genes you inherited from your parents. Genes are microscopic and carry information about how living things look and function. Genes are made of DNA, which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid.

In this session, we will be doing DNA extraction, a procedure scientists use to isolate DNA from the nucleus, or centre, of cells. Extracting DNA can help study the genetic causes of diseases, find strains of crops that are resistant to certain pests, and more.  We will each be extracting DNA from a strawberry with materials you can find at home, and learning about biotechnology and genetic engineering from Julie Legault.

Preparation: Click here for a list of materials

Expert: Julie Legault is the Founder and CEO of Amino Labs, and co-author of Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero: The Beginners Guide to Programming Bacteria at Home.  

Saturday September 26 – All About Trees

Did you know that being in nature provides a calming sensation, lowers heart rate, respiration rate, and stress?

Great, but how do you tell which tree is which?  There’s a science to it!  Dr. Janani Sivarajah will be teaching us the science of classifying trees.  We will split into groups and go through the steps scientists follow to identify trees.

Preparation: Take some pictures of trees in your neighbourhood and bring them to the session so we can identify them together.

Expert: Dr. Janani Sivarajah is an urban forest ecology and plant biology researcher! She is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, lectures at the  Department of Forestry, University of Toronto, and is a Research Associate at the Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University.