Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 06, 2002

U of G receives NSERC awards to promote science among youth

Two University of Guelph projects that provide elementary and secondary school students with learning opportunities in science and engineering received support this week from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

NSERC awarded the Department of Plant Agriculture's Tomatosphere II Project $71,100 for its next development phase. The program will involve elementary and high school students conducting experiments on tomato seeds that have been on board the International Space Station for four to six months. In addition, the School of Engineering project Engineering-LIVE, received $10,600 to develop interactive travelling classroom activities. The funding was provided by NSERC's PromoScience program, which helps organizations that give young Canadian opportunities to increase their scientific knowledge and encourages them to consider careers in science and technology.

"These grants will help build a more innovative Canada, resulting in jobs and growth and a higher quality of life for all Canadians," Industry Minister Allan Rock said. Added NSERC president Tom Brzustowski: "By awarding these grants, we are making a sound investment in Canada's youth."

The Tomatosphere II project, headed by plant agriculture professor Mike Dixon, will have students germinating and growing seeds that orbited the Earth with Canadian and American astronauts. The NSERC funding will allow the project to double in size, with nearly 500,000 seeds scheduled to go into outer space in the fall of 2003 and more than 6,000 students across the country conducting experiments. The students are studying seeds that were in orbit under microgravity conditions and seeds that stayed on Earth to compare germination and seedling vigour. Half the seeds that go into orbit and half of those that don't are exposed to a special treatment that uses red and infrared light to stimulate growth. Researchers are trying to determine if the red-light treatment has any influence on seeds that are exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation in space.

Tomatosphere II is a joint project of the University of Guelph, Heinz Canada and Heinz World Headquarters (United States). It is also sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology, Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc., the Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian Space Resource Centre.

Engineering-LIVE! builds on current activities supported by the School of Engineering that give students a direct link and access to engineering in the classroom setting. The goal is to improve the understanding of engineering as a profession and promote careers in the field. The NSERC funding will be used for program development, including an interactive, module-based classroom sessions designed to supplement the high school curriculum. The program will demonstrate the connection between secondary school science, mathematics and engineering. Plans also call for matching secondary school students with an engineering student for a day.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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