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'Ask questions and try things': U of T hosts grade-school students, innovation minister at STEM-focused event

More than 1,000 Ontario students from Grades 2-8 were on U of T's downtown Toronto campus Friday for Go North Youth, hosted by U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering in partnership with Google Canada and Actua (all photos by Roberta Baker)

More than 1,100 inquiring minds visited the University of Toronto on Friday for Go North Youth – the largest science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event in Canada for pre-university students.

The annual one-day event, hosted by U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering in partnership with Google Canada and Actua, encourages Ontario students from Grades 2-8 to build, explore and learn about the vast possibilities that open by studying and pursuing careers in STEM. 

This year's theme of artificial intelligence (AI) gave students the opportunity to not only gain a better understanding of the power of AI, but also gain exposure to how “smart” technology is built.

The agenda included experiential STEM workshops, AI coding activities, as well as demonstrations in “Innovate Alley,” a hub of STEM activity located in the atrium of the Bahen Centre.

The day kicked off with opening ceremonies in U of T's Convocation Hall, featuring welcome remarks from Navdeep Bains (pictured above), the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, Cristina Amon, the dean of U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, as well as a keynote from student quantum computing expert Tanisha Bassan and a live demo by movie prop-maker “the Hacksmith,” who also goes by the name James Hobson.

“Engineering is about turning imagination into reality,” said Amon. “While you are here, remember to keep your eyes open, to ask questions and try things you have never tried before.

“Our country and our world need creative people like you, and I hope you will consider returning to U of T as engineering students one day.”

Prior to the opening ceremonies, Amon participated in a roundtable discussion on AI and how Canada can strengthen its AI ecosystem and prepare the next generation for the future of work.

The discussion included policy-makers and industry leaders such as Megh Gupta of Element AI, Natacha Mainville of Google Brain and tech expert Amber Mac.

Check out more photos and social media moments captured from the day.