If you had told the Carleton engineering student societies in 1994 that the science and technology camp they had just launched would go from working with 150 to 10,000 students per year, they probably wouldn’t have believed it.
Virtual Ventures (VV) is an award-winning program hosted out of Carleton University’s Faculty of Engineering and Design that aims to connect youth (junior kindergarten – grade 12) to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) from an early age. Between the Summer Camp, fall and winter clubs, after-school programs, school workshops and special events, VV is continually working on finding new avenues to inspire learning.
Innovating and staying curious has never been more important. VV opens doors for youth to have hands-on, tangible experience in areas such as computer programming, science, electronics, engineering, robotics, and web development. Exposure to these topics greatly impacts their interest in STEM fields and resonates with them as they navigate their academic and professional futures.
“Working at VV has given me the chance to help the next generation of scientists and engineers find their passion for STEM. It’s a rewarding job, and I absolutely love it.” – Eryn, Camp Instructor 2020-22 & Program Assistant 2022-23, Biomedical and Electrical Engineering Student
Reaching Audiences Where They’re At
2022 marks the first year in the program’s history where more than 10,000 youth were reached across all programs.
The team has worked hard to ensure the programming evolves with new technology and interests. Expanding offerings and including a greater variety of STEM-related topics have helped participants deepen their passions and foster their creativity.
“During the pandemic, we had to adapt and find ways to reach the youth where they were. We created activity kits that were shipped to their homes and the youth joined us online to complete the activities.” – Kyra Bloomfield, Program Director, Virtual Ventures
“This allowed us to reach youth outside of Ottawa, and relieve any barriers in travelling to in-person programs.”
Bloomfield is grateful that youth were able to continue exploring STEM despite the challenges.
Innovative solutions throughout the pandemic were critical to strengthen and enhance youths’ interest in STEM fields. VV’s return to in-person programming in 2022 was met with excitement from new and returning Summer Camp participants hosted on the Carleton campus.
“Thank you for this great class – [my daughter] was saying she may be an engineer someday!” – Parent of Summer Camp Participant
Students are more engaged than ever in all things related to technology. Providing opportunities for them to see how they can get involved in the future of technology leaves a strong impression.
“I have not seen [him] that excited about something except Fortnite, other video games, and Star Wars. Thanks for helping him discover and nurture a love of STEM and creating things.” – Parent of Summer Camp Bursary Recipient
Looking Ahead and Continuing to Evolve
The future of VV continues to prioritize connecting youth to hands-on experiences in engineering, game design, programming, and more! During the school year, Saturday Clubs, school workshops, after school programs and special events are available for youth to continue deep diving into STEM. VV is consistently iterating and developing new activities that connect to the Ontario school curriculums.
“A new addition to our after-school programming has been Linked> Leaders. This program employs high school youth at the BGC (formerly Boys and Girls Club) to complete hands-on technology programs with the younger youth in their community. This program model also allows us to expand the program nationally and provide these opportunities to youth across Canada.” – Christine Riddell, Executive Director, Virtual Ventures
Virtual Ventures is consistently expanding their programs to provide access for all youth, especially underrepresented groups, with the opportunity to explore STEM. Participants can continue looking forward to engaging in innovative STEM programming year-round.