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The Gina Cody School engineers a hot summer of activities

Hundreds of students and community members tapped into a wide selection of STEM-related programs and camps
August 27, 2019
By Howard Bokser

Far from enjoying a sleepy reprieve during a sizzling July and August, Concordia heated up this summer, playing host to myriad courses, programs, camps, conferences and more.

The Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science did its part by organizing a number of camps and programs that exposed youngsters, teens and other participants to the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) enquiry — and to Concordia itself.

“We have been quite busy this summer with community outreach. The season is ideal for reaching out to young people and encouraging them to become engaged in STEM fields,” says Amir Asif, dean of the Gina Cody School.

“It’s a wonderful way to invite them into a diverse and active engineering and computer science community and encourage them to interact with our state-of-the-art technologies and lab facilities. Investing in the future of engineering and computer science is at the heart of what we do.”

CIADI Science and Engineering Summer Camp

From July 2 through August 23, the CIADI (Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation) Science and Engineering Summer Camp offered education and fun to around 150 children aged 6 to 12.

Up to 40 campers per week conducted scientific experiments, saw demonstrations by students and researchers and visited university labs and science- and engineering-related institutions, among other activities.

2019 was the camp’s fourth year. From the start, it has partnered with Let’s Talk Science, an outreach program that also offers STEM learning experiences in schools and communities.

“Through exciting experiments designed to pique the interest of young minds, we work with and motivate children to take an interest in science and engineering,” says Nadia Bhuiyan, vice-provost of partnerships and experiential learning and professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering.

“Our experiments bring interactive, hands-on science to youth. The ultimate goal is to make STEM fields accessible and appealing to children.”


The Government of Canada and others have identified a need to increase the number of women in STEM, which remains disproportionately low.

Anjali Agarwal, associate dean of student academic services and equity, diversity and inclusion, and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, believes the root of the issue lies in the younger grades. “Gender neutrality in STEM education is lacking at the primary and high school levels,” she says. “It’s intense science and math, yes, but it’s the same regardless of gender.”

Motivated to change the landscape, Agarwal and her Gina Cody School colleagues developed the concept for GirlSET: All-Girls Summer Engineering and Technology Program, which launched in summer 2017. “We wanted to give schoolgirls hands-on engineering experience in a university atmosphere,” she says.

In its first year, 35 local and international youth — all female — attended the two-week program. This July, GirlSET welcomed 90 girls who are entering grades 9 to 11 and first-year CEGEP.

They enjoyed a range of informative and lively sessions on topics such as water, waste and energy, sumo bots and game development. “The girls get to see electric circuitry and bridge building, and this year they learned about Space Concordia and the Concordia Society of Automotive Engineers,” Agarwal says.

“We hire our undergraduate and graduate students to run the workshops, with support from faculty and laboratory staff. It’s a collaborative effort,” she adds.

The program’s growing popularity supports Agarwal’s belief that introducing young women to STEM fields will only increase their interest. “The girls really enjoy it.”

Summer Research Awards

For the past several years, Montreal-area high school and CEGEP students have presented their award-winning projects at the Hydro-Québec Science Fair in the atrium of Concordia’s Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building).

In 2019, the Gina Cody School handed out its first Summer Research Awards to eight exceptional science fair participants. The budding scientists worked four to six paid weeks alongside current graduate students, professors and lab technicians on projects that matched their interests and learning levels.

The initiative was the brainchild of Ali Akgunduz, associate dean of academic programs and professor of mechanical, industrial and aerospace engineering.

“At the science fair we provide a lot of entrance awards to students, but they are still a few years away from university,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we bring these students now so they can see what engineers do, and let these kids learn about Concordia and see us as a research institute?’”

Each student focussed on one of four research areas: advanced materials, zero-energy building studies, thermal spray and multiphase flow, and cybersecurity.

Rosemount High School student Yash Varde helped monitor background internet radiation from a specific country at the Computer Security Laboratory, supervised by Mourad Debbabi, professor and research chair at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.

“I’ve been coding since I was 12 years old,” Varde says. “I want to do malware analysis, and cybersecurity is a good starting point to learn the ropes.”

Akgunduz says the goal is to have these bright-minded students choose to be engineers. “They all had an experience they will never forget.”

Summer@Concordia workshop exchange

Engineering and computer science students often express an interest in acquiring entrepreneurial know-how. At the same time, John Molson School of Business (JMSB) students are increasingly on the lookout for insight into the field of cybersecurity.

Concordia’s solution? Create a one-day workshop to allow both groups of students to mix it up — cross faculties to gain knowledge.

At the John Molson (MB) Building on August 22, 25 Gina Cody School students attended a workshop on entrepreneurship and 25 JMSB students filled a cybersecurity session.

Serguei Mokhov, affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, taught the cybersecurity workshop for JMSB students. Mokhov instructed students on typical cybersecurity threats, their mitigation and best practices.

He also covered developing technologies, such as blockchain, and new trends in cybersecurity, such as cyberinsurance.

Ronald Abraira, full-time lecturer in the Department of Management, introduced Gina Cody School students to entrepreneurial thought processes and business planning. Abraira touched on ways to develop ideas and recognize opportunity and discussed marketing, operations and finance.

“It was an overview of entrepreneurship, covering idea generation, creativity, opportunity recognition and marketing and finance,” Abraira says. “We kept it general because the goal is to get the students interested.”

At the end of the workshops, participants gathered to share insights on the day.

“The JMSB and engineering students had a chance to network with each other,” he says. “It was a good first start.”

Other summer activities

The Gina Cody School also offered a series of summer programs and workshops to university students and professionals. These included:

Learn more about the
Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science and its summer programs.


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