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Sudbury STEM summer camp inspiring tomorrow’s scientists

Laurentian University summer camp connects younger students with the future of mining and battery electric technology 

As Sudbury works toward a stronger partnership between mining and the battery electric automotive industry, the effort is underway to introduce science and technology to the next generation of local scientists and technicians.

Some 400 local students between the ages of 10 and 14 are taking part in Electrifying The Future, a free summer camp project hosted by Laurentian University's Goodman School of Mines. 

Nicole Tardif, program co-ordinator at Goodman, said LU joined up with local businesses and local schools to make it a city-wide effort to raise the level of interest for younger students.

"And so we partnered with Collège Boréal, Cambrian College and some local companies — Epiroc, Technica Mining and Laurentian Chrysler — to offer a camp where students will get to experience skills that are offered through the programming of those postsecondary institutions," said Tardif. 

She said the hope is to inspire students to think about careers in the mining, automotive or mobility industries.

On July 19, dozens of young people were at the Cambrian eDome, many of them wearing lab coats. They were hunched over tables studying such things as electronic circuitry and the properties of different types of battery metals. 

In another part of the room, other students were trying their hand at remotely operating scaled-down miniature versions of excavators and mine haulage trucks. At a nearby table, other students worked at hooking up the wireless connections to operate the vehicles.

Teen student Colton Mende was one of them and he said he liked it.

"It's going pretty good. Because we got to make these trucks and stuff, we had to put ground and positive and negative into the right spots to a pin board, which is pretty cool," said Mende.

He added he liked the idea of studying to be an electrician, but added he might also study engineering.

Tardif said the project appears to be working in the sense that the feedback from the students is positive. She said many like the idea that at their young age, they're exposed to the things that college and university students are learning.

She said the diversity of the experience is also appealing.

"So today at Cambrian there's a lot of remote control things and electrifying equipment in scientific labs. That might appeal to some kids more than others. On another day, they'll go and do geology, looking at rocks and minerals. And that might appeal to somebody else, or engineering doing solar powered electric vehicles, you know. So I think it's appealing to everybody, and we've had students come back every day. So I think that they're really enjoying themselves," said Tardif.

She said one of the key reasons for the program is that there is a worry about a shortage of skilled technical workers in the battery electric automotive and mobility industries.

Tardif said the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network was keen to provide funding to promote future careers in the industry. 

Tardif said it was a good fit for Sudbury.

"Because we are a mining community, we seem to know a lot about mining, right? And so this camp was also an opportunity for us to connect mining to the automobile. So from the earth to the automobile, looking at why it's important to have critical minerals to build the batteries put in electric vehicles. So that was our connection to the automobile industry," she explained.

Week 1 of the summer camp ends this Friday, July 21. Week 2 of the camp picks up on July 31 and runs through to Aug. 4.

Tardif said this was the first year for the learning camp. She added that it is possible that additional funding could come through to allow for other camps to be held next year. 

Len Gillis writes about the mining industry as well as health care for