Curiosity, creativity, resilience and problem solving – the mental tools of innovation – are accessible to everyone, and their power can be amplified when they are employed in collaboration with other curious, creative problem-solvers. To celebrate Canadian ingenuity and inspire innovation across the country, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, led Innovation150, a cross-country tour featuring exhibits and experiences from five of the country's top science outreach organizations: Actua, the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, the Canadian Association of Science Centres and its members, Ingenium and Perimeter Institute.
"Throughout Canada's sesquicentennial year, we set out to create opportunities for all Canadians, especially young Canadians, to be inspired to believe that they can be global innovation leaders," says Greg Dick, Perimeter's director of educational outreach. "We took this aspiration from coast to coast to coast, reaching tens of thousands of young people with hands-on science exhibits and experiences. Online experiences and contests, and TV spots celebrating Canadian innovation, reached countless more."
As part of the Innovation150 program, Perimeter's "Power of Ideas" touring exhibition reached 180 communities across Canada and well over 65,000 youth, says Mr. Dick. "We made our touring exhibition highly flexible and mobile so we could visit remote communities that do not typically have the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge science."
Mr. Dick believes that "humanity's understanding of our natural world begins with asking big questions and following our innate curiosity to uncover new knowledge," so the exhibits were designed to fuel curiosity and spark new ideas. "It was amazing to see young people, particularly those who don't have easy access to science centres, explore big scientific ideas with their friends, families and communities."
Innovation is difficult to define, but typically relates to a process of change and, ideally, improvement. "It is about finding a better, smarter way to do things," says Mr. Dick. "Innovation150 programs helped Canadians explore innovation itself through an exhibit about the quantum world, a mobile maker-space, contests, an innovation storybook and science festivals, all encouraging youth to work together to tackle challenges – whether at home, in their school or community, or on the global scale."
"Our hope was to help young Canadians realize they have incredible tools at their disposal, and live in a safe, diverse, free country where they can put those tools to use for the benefit of all. Through Innovation150, and through all of Perimeter Institute's educational outreach, we aim not to teach facts and figures, but to inspire young people to ask questions, think critically and work together in search of solutions."
The Innovation150 festivals in cities from Vancouver to Halifax exemplify how collaboration between like-minded organizations can multiply the ultimate impact, says Mr. Dick, who adds that the Innovation150 partners encouraged nearby organizations to host their own affiliate events.
"Every new partner meant greater opportunities for people to participate. It was simultaneously a national and grassroots movement that created a sense of collaboration that was an important lesson in itself," he explains. "The legacy from this year will live on in the relationships we've forged between science and technology outreach organizations within and across regions that had not previously collaborated. Together, these organizations will ensure that many more young Canadians have opportunities to be inspired in the coming years."
The initiative was possible thanks to the Government of Canada's vision in supporting Innovation150 as a Canada 150 Signature Project.
For more information, please see innovation150.ca.
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.