June 2001

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Corporate Donation Juices Up Electro-Magnet Demo

APEGGA's Outreach Program Benefits From PowerTran Donation of Small Transformers



In a classroom brimming with eager minds and nimble fingers, even a good volunteer needsa prop or two to bring scientific concepts down to earth. So Bob Rose, P.Eng., wanted to fashion a few miniature transformers out of scrap to get his science message across to Grade 9 students at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in his home town of Ardrossan.

Mr. Rose, 48, works for ATCO Electric. Suffice to say, an old transformer from his company would be a lot larger than what the APEGGA Outreach volunteer was looking for.

He turned to PowerTran Company Ltd. of Edmonton, where he figured he could find the materials. "All I asked was, 'Can I come and go through your scrap bin?' " recalls Mr. Rose. "Instead I get a phone call saying, no, I can't go through the bin. Three guys are going to make me the transformers. They asked me how many and how big. I said 10 and about four inches."

Now when he explains the workings of transformers for students, Mr. Rose has the real goods. Children see how the transformers work, and they even get to wind the wire themselves.

PowerTran's donation is the kind of corporate response Jeanne Keaschuk, APEGGA's Outreach coordinator, would like to see catch on. Allowing an employee to take time off for Outreach isn't always possible. And a monetary donation is often tough, too. Maybe the answer is a donation of a few supplies and a little manpower in the name of science education, Ms Keaschuk suggests.

"This is a major contribution. We certainly hope for more contributions like this for use in the classroom. There's lots of potential for industry to get involved in Outreach in this way," she says.

Another way to donate, of course, is to get out there and volunteer. Mr. Rose, for one, has no regrets. He's in his fourth year of volunteering for Outreach, and he's worked in grades 1, 3, 5 and now -- with the transformers -- Grade 9 classrooms.

Volunteering is a chance to give science "the engineering spin," he says. Students are more interested in science when the get to see it at work and actually do something. The teachers learn something, too.

Says Elaan Koshka, the Grade 9 science teacher at Holy Redeemer: "It helped me big time. I'm a biology person, so physics and electricity are on the bottom of my list. I know a tiny bit more about electricity than the students."

Scientific concepts are often "very difficult to explain," Ms Koshka adds. "Bob gives them a lot of hands-on things to do, which keeps them interested."

The students learned to wrap the coil -- which is not as easy as it looks. And they saw the results of their work. "It was just great," says the teacher.

As for Dan Sinasac, manager of marketing services at PowerTran, the building of the transformers was a natural. "I enjoyed being a part of it. In fact it's an idea I've had for years, and then Bob came along with the same idea. You see the pictures in the basic electricity books, but you don't get enough of that hands-on experience in the schools. Everything's so high-tech. Kids see an LED on their computers, but have no idea where it comes from. But the basic knowledge is easy to understand when you see it at this level. You have to plant the seed to get the oak tree."

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