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High school competition at Dal AC offers high school students a taste of engineering

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on February 7, 2018 in News
Emily Merks and Nathanial King, two Dalhousie Engineering students complete a prototype project.
Emily Merks and Nathanial King, two Dalhousie Engineering students complete a prototype project.

High school students with an interest in engineering will have the chance to experiment in a hands-on competition hosted at Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture (Dal AC) next month.

The engineering competition will be held as part of the International Smart Farming Seminar held on March 15 and 16 at the Agricultural Campus in Truro. The two-day seminar is hosted by the Precision Agriculture Research team at Dal AC and will see guest speakers, presentations and workshops around sustainable farming and precision agriculture.

The engineering competition, which will be held on Thursday, March 15, will be open to all grade 11 and 12 students in Nova Scotia. There is no cost to register for the student competition, lunch will be provided free of charge to the students. Students must register in advance and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis at a maximum of 40 students who will then be divided into teams of four. Students will be given the opportunity to indicate a teammate, provided the request is made on both registration forms.

Teams will be given an engineering problem and will have three hours to plan and construct a prototype to develop a solution. No experience with engineering is necessary and all students with an interest in engineering are encouraged to participate in the competition. The winning team will receive a prize and be invited to attend the evening banquet, where they will be presented with their award in front of attendees.

“The wonderful thing about working in teams at these competitions is that one student’s weaknesses can be met by another student’s strengths, allowing a great opportunity for students to learn and get thinking about engineering,” explains Karen Esau, engineering graduate student and member of the competition planning committee.

The high school competition hopes to introduce engineering with a focus on agriculture to high schools students and encourage them to consider engineering as a career choice. As the need for sustainable smart farming becomes more prevalent, new opportunities emerge for the next generation of engineers. The goal is to engage students in a hands-on and fun environment.

“I hope that the competition will help to spark a passion in the students for a future in engineering,” Karen says. “I would love for them to see that engineering can be so fun and rewarding. I would also love for students to come away with an excitement about engineering in agriculture.”

Dr. Qamar Zaman, a professor and researcher in the department of engineering, leads the Precision Agriculture Research team at Dal AC and is one of the organizers of the International Smart Farming Seminar. Dr. Zaman hopes that the competition will teach high school students about modern day agriculture and reveal some of the many avenues that can be pursued with a background in engineering.

“It’s a chance for young people to understand, through compelling research, what modern agriculture looks and sounds like,” Dr. Zaman explains. “In many ways, Precision Agriculture represents the future of the agriculture industry and the intersection between advanced technologies and traditional agriculture.”

While the engineering competition is highly anticipated by organizers, it is just one part of the International Smart Farming Seminar. The two day seminar hopes to help advance the sustainable development and adoption of smart precision agriculture in Atlantic Canada. Sustainable farming and precision agriculture helps farmers to make production systems more efficient and reduce the cost of production. Dr. Zaman’s research incorporates agrochemical, technological and ecological approaches to develop an innovative approach to managing high value crops. The wild blueberry, grape and wine, tree crop and potato industries have been heavily involved in this research program.

The upcoming seminar at Dal AC will include participants from government, producers, processors, academia, engineers and more. The seminar will spark conversation in this sector and encourage research collaborations to further advance sustainable farming practices.

“The goal of the international seminar is to initiate a dialog and seek ways to advance the sustainable development and adoption of smart precision agriculture technologies in Atlantic Canada,” Dr. Zaman explains. “We also want to get young people excited about the future of agriculture. These innovative technologies are affordable, reliable and user friendly and once implemented in Atlantic Canada, are expected to improve the competitiveness and profitability of the agricultural industry and enhance the sustainability of rural life in the region.”

In 2018, Dalhousie University will celebrate 200 years of teaching, research and service. The International Smart Farming Seminar is a part of Dalhousie University’s 200th anniversary celebrations. Numerous celebrations and activities will be held throughout the year across all campuses to celebrate this rare milestone.

For more information on the high school engineering competition, please visit:

For more information on the International Smart Farming Seminar, please visit: