University Student Already Makes a Difference

Public Relations Coordinator

Laura Wall is one of APEGGA's Outreach volunteers. She is in her last year of mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary. She has also completed a minor in entrepreneurship and enterprise development as part of her undergraduate engineering degree. Laura has been a student member of the APEGGA Student Advantage Program since 2001.

As part of the Engineering Internship Program offered by the University of Calgary, Laura recently completed a 16-month work term at Nexen in the Yemen Masila Operations Group. In the summer of 2001 she worked with the Minds in Motion program co-hosted by the University of Calgary faculties of science and engineering.

Since joining the Outreach program in 2001, Laura has done such a great job with her presentations that many teachers have asked for her to come back to their classes. “Laura has really made a name for herself among the teachers who use the Outreach program,” says Elizabeth Muir, Calgary Outreach Coordinator. In addition to Outreach presentations, Laura has judged at the Calgary Youth Science Fair.

Why did you join APEGGA?

I know that belonging to APEGGA will be a professional necessity once I'm working as an engineer, so it makes sense to become part of the Association, read the newsletters, attend some events and do volunteer work with APEGGA now. Learning about the organization now will make the transition from being in school to working as an engineer easier in at least one aspect.

Why do you volunteer with APEGGA?
I like encouraging children to enjoy and explore science. After spending a summer working at Minds in Motion, I felt like I had the skills to volunteer with the Outreach Program and decided to make use of those skills.

What is your favourite type of Outreach presentation?
I really like doing the Grade 3 unit Testing Materials and Designs. This was the first topic I ever did Outreach presentations for, and I have this whole goofy activity I do at the beginning.

After introducing myself, I tell the students I want to show them a design I have made. It is an outfit for the beach and every piece is really foolish. The kids giggle as I tape on a hat made of Saran wrap, explaining that I know I have to wear a hat but I want to show off my hairstyle.

I put some aluminum foil around my arms instead of sunscreen, explaining that I have sensitive skin and some sunscreens give me a rash, but aluminum foil will protect me from sunburn.

Then I show them some “beach shoes” that are plastic bags filled with sawdust, saying that I don't like the feeling of hot sand on my feet and the sawdust is good insulation. When I ask them if they like my shoes, they yell out “NO!” It's great because the kids really open up and get involved in the presentation right away, and by telling me what mistakes I've made in selecting materials, they realize how much they already know.

Can you recall a particularly memorable volunteer experience?
This past spring I made an Outreach presentation at a small private charter school. There were only seven students in the class and they each wrote me an individual thank you letter afterwards, saying what they liked and what they had learned. The letters gave me renewed motivation as a volunteer.

What are your other hobbies and interests?
I have been involved in Girl Guides basically ever since I was seven years old, and that is an important interest to me. I've been a leader for three years now: two years with a Sparks group (five- and six-year-olds) and one with Pathfinders (12-to-14-year-olds).

Guiding played a big role in my development as a girl, and I'd really like to help give that to other girls. I have a goal to one day get my 40-year service pin as an adult member of Guiding (I'll earn my five-year pin this spring).

In general, I like to spend my free time reading books, volunteering, camping and golfing.

What's your favourite book?

My favorite book is The BFG by Roald Dahl. I've always loved the part where the Big Friendly Giant explains how he keeps dreams in jars and all the examples of the dreams (e.g. “I dreamt that I turn invisible every time I press my bellybutton”) because I love having funny dreams and the book really caught my imagination.

Why do you think it is important for university students to volunteer with APEGGA?
Becoming involved with APEGGA is valuable for students as a way to meet people in the industry, gain contacts, and learn about the kinds of careers that are out there in engineering and geoscience. But also, I think that when university students volunteer with APEGGA, the organization benefits from new perspectives.

In the Outreach program, some students will relate more easily to an Outreach volunteer who is in university. For example, junior high students might watch a presentation from a university student and be able to imagine themselves being in the presenter's position, six or seven years down the road.


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