Just over a week ago Mira Donaldson returned from her month-long stay in Ottawa for the SHAD program-an experience she described as “incredible.”
SHAD is an annual summer program run at universities across Canada that allows high school students to live in residence for a month and participate in a university learning environment.
“It was an experience unlike anything else I have ever done or dreamed of doing,” Donaldson told the Times after her return to Fort Frances.
“The days were busy, scheduled from 8:30 in the morning to 11 at night,” she added.
Donaldson, who will be going into Grade 11 at Fort Frances High School this fall, spent her month of July at Carleton University participating in workshops, labs, projects and lectures.
“We had lectures on cyber-security, DNA aptamers, knowledge versus intelligence, philosophy, nuclear waste management, social enterprise, neutrinos, the SNO Lab, and everything in between,” noted Donaldson.
Each student also had the opportunity to choose five workshops to participate in throughout the month.
Donaldson chose biomedical engineering, sports medicine and exercise science, business models for social enterprises in developing countries, geology, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
One of Donaldson's highlights was a hiking tour of a local waterfall as a part of the geology workshop, but she noted there were many other new things she was able to try inside and outside of the classroom.
“I learned so much about things I never would have thought of researching,” she enthused.
Also part of the program was a month-long design and entrepreneurship project based on the theme of “meaningfully reducing Canada's energy footprint.”
Donaldson's team designed a sub-flooring system that produced piezoelectricity (electricity generated by pressure, in this case walking on the floor).
“It was an amazing experience to work with a group of students who were creative, intelligent, passionate, determined and, with my group in particular, intent on making and helping new friends,” Donaldson commented.
In fact, Donaldson said it was the people around her that made the whole month so special.
She noted that there were kids there who loved music, sports, psychology, medicine, electrical engineering, performing and anything else you could imagine.
“It was so nice to be around other kids my age and older who have similar interests and passions,” said Donaldson.
“Each one of the other 59 students and the amazing staff taught me something-whether it was about their interests, my interests, or just how to be the best person I can be,” she recalled.
Donaldson explained that SHAD was the perfect place for her to step outside of her comfort zone, to make mistakes and learn from them.
She is hoping that the lessons she has learned at SHAD will help her at school, at home and in Toronto when she attends the Ontario Science Centre Science School during the second semester of the next school year.
“Spending a month in Ottawa made me realize that I am not really a city girl, and six months in Toronto is still a little daunting to me, but now I am more excited than nervous for the new opportunities of big city living,” said Donaldson.
Donaldson noted she can't wait to be in another place where she can hopefully find the same sort of community and family as SHAD.
She added that during her stay at Carleton University she met students who live or go to school close to the Science Centre, and she is sure there will be a few reunions with the friends she made in Ottawa.