Faculty of Science

Service Learning adds value for students and our community

Students present their projects to residents during their final visit to Northwood’s Halifax Campus.

Students present their projects to residents during their final visit to Northwood’s Halifax Campus.

There was excitement buzzing in the lounge on the on the top floor of Northwood’s seniors home as residents awaited a presentation from Terry Goldsmith’s CSCI 3428 Software Engineering class.

The students took part in a Service Learning project, which combines course curriculum with community-based experiences. Their task over the fall term was to create inclusive software for residents of the long-term care facility in Halifax.

After speaking with residents and occupational therapists to discover their unique wants and needs, the students worked in groups to come up with concepts such as voice-activated software, messaging apps, and an online calendar for use in the facility. They then made modifications based on feedback from their clients.

“As a professor, and a continuing care assistant, I witnessed something truly amazing when this bright and energetic group of residents worked with my class of 30 software engineering students,” said Goldsmith.

“I saw software engineers taking on the role of continuing care assistant, and residents taking on the role of software engineer. They could learn together, because of the opportunity service learning provided,” he said.

Feedback from residents included suggestions to use voice-activated commands, face recognition capability, and requests for colours that work best for people with vision issues – black and yellow is a popular combination, explained Margaret Szabo, Director of Business Development at Northwood.

“Memos are also a useful feature, easing anxiety for people who have memory issues,” she said, adding that being able to complete any tasks in two clicks or less is also ideal.

“It’s amazing how quickly the students learn to take feedback, reflect, and change; there’s a big difference from when we started in September to the final presentations in November,” said Sarah Bray, Service Learning Placement Coordinator, Student Affairs & Services at Saint Mary’s.

Saint Mary’s students help Northwood resident Trudie Helmke.

Saint Mary’s students help Northwood resident Trudie Helmke.

Northwood resident Trudie Helmke was particularly impressed by the team that built a voice-controlled virtual assistant that they named Ellen.

When asked if she would use one of the apps if it were made available, Helmke said she would.

“I’ve been telling others about Ellen who would love to use it because they don’t want to keep spending money on [other similar products]… I’ve been spreading the word,” she said.

The benefits of service learning, the networking, and the connections with clients can last long after the courses end.

“It becomes real, you have to get out of the classroom and out of your comfort zone,” said Bray.

“These are skills that will serve these students in other classes and in future careers, while encouraging them to reflect on personal values, assumptions, and issues of social responsibility,” she said.

To learn more:

Service Learning opportunities for students
Service Learning Courses
Information for Faculty

 

Saint Mary's researcher part of group looking to get a glimpse of the hot universe

Dr. Luigi Gallo, member of the XRISM science team and professor of astronomy and physics at Saint Mary's University. (Credit: Ryan Taplin)

Dr. Luigi Gallo, member of the XRISM science team and professor of astronomy and physics at Saint Mary's University. (Credit: Ryan Taplin)

Many people think of space as a cold and empty place, but some structures in the universe are incredibly hot. In fact, at the centre of most galaxies lie supermassive black holes, whose surrounding regions can reach millions of degrees.

X-rays can be described as a hot, high-energy form of light that the human eye cannot see. Many kinds of astronomical objects, like massive stars, black holes, and clusters of galaxies, emit X-rays. Because Earth's atmosphere shields us from this cosmic radiation, astronomers must send observatories into space to study these exotic objects.

Led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) is a new space observatory that will take a closer look at the hot, often violent ways that galaxies form and stars burn out.

The XRISM observatory will feature two scientific instruments, Xtend and Resolve, which must be tested and calibrated before installation and launch. NASA has chosen to perform these tests at the Canadian Light Source, an synchrotron facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, that is capable of generating X-rays.

In addition to these efforts, the Canadian Space Agency is also supporting the participation of Canadian scientists:

  • Dr. Luigi Gallo, of Saint Mary's University, on the XRISM science team

  • Dr. Brian McNamara, of the University of Waterloo, on the Resolve instrument team

Members of Canada's astronomy community will be able to compete for guest observer time, an exciting opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research into cosmic sources of X-rays and to shed light on the structure of our universe.

More information can be found be found here at the Canadian Space Agency website.

SMU faculty participate as scientific experts at G7 Oceans Inspiration Expo

Dr. Danika van Proosdij speaks at the G7 Oceans Summit

Dr. Danika van Proosdij speaks at the G7 Oceans Summit

Three Saint Mary’s University faculty members were invited to participate as experts at the G7 Oceans Summit at the Halifax Convention Centre, in parallel with the G7 Joint Ministerial Session on Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities.

The summit, and the G7 meeting, generally focused on oceans – with the three themes of the gathering being: plastic reduction, sustainable fishing, and coastal resilience. Professors Dr. Danika van Proosdij, Dr. Cathy Conrad and Dr. Tony Charles represented the university, working with 200 other global experts to develop the framing and guiding document on Oceans for the G7 ministers meeting that followed.

This collaboration was thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Canadian Government’s Environment and Climate Change department (ECCC) and the Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN) led by Dr. Tony Charles and based at Saint Mary’s University.

Dr. van Proosdij was a panellist for the “Resilient Coasts and Communities” event, speaking about her Natural Infrastructure to adapt to climate change impacts. She has worked in Canada, and on the Indian Ocean and Caribbean, primarily on vulnerability assessment and recommendations of implementation.

She was also a judge at the Clean Coastal Challenge, where youth pitched and designed sustainable coastal communities. The communities had to be sustainable, circular economy, renewable energy and healthy lifestyles.

Saint Mary’s was the only university with a booth at the Oceans Inspiration Expo, a public G7 event with presentations by Sylvia Earle and Alexandra Cousteau. The booth featured the work of the CCRN, on local communities around the world that are conserving their environment and sustaining their local economy, as well as several other university ocean and coastal initiatives.

Dr. David Bourgeois wins Father William A. Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching

Dr. David Bourgeois receives the Father William A. Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching from Mary-Evelyn Ternan (BA’69, BEd’70, MEd’88), Past President of the Saint Mary's Alumni Association

Dr. David Bourgeois receives the Father William A. Stewart Medal for Excellence in Teaching from Mary-Evelyn Ternan (BA’69, BEd’70, MEd’88), Past President of the Saint Mary's Alumni Association

Dr. David Bourgeois, Associate Professor of Psychology, is known for offering students interactive, hands-on learning experiences. He respects diverse learning needs and places great importance on cross-cultural education.

Aside from teaching in the classroom, Dr. Bourgeois shares talks and lectures with the broader community, including Nova Scotia school teachers, prospective Saint Mary’s students and their parents, and visiting academics from Beijing Normal University. He also created the Documentaries with Dave series, which is open to the public and covers social justice issues and politics. Dr. Bourgeois’ interest in Peace and Conflict Studies is demonstrated in his role as a faculty mentor in the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Program (NICRP); this initiative has existed at Saint Mary’s since 2004 and has included more than 180 students in its mission of fostering peace education locally and abroad. Dr. Bourgeois also contributed significantly to the development of the University’s new Peace and Conflict Studies minor, and he has been a member of the Board of Directors for Peaceful Schools International, a partner organization of the NICRP, for over a decade.

Committed to university affairs, Dr. Bourgeois serves on a number of Saint Mary’s committees, including the Faculty of Science Curriculum Committee, the Academic Discipline Committee, the Social Benefits Committee of the Faculty Union, and the Conflict Resolution Advisory Committee.

The Medal for Excellence in Teaching is named for the late Father William A. Stewart, a philosophy professor and administrator at Saint Mary’s from 1950-1982. Father Stewart was known for his inclusivity, approachability, innovative teaching, and service to the University.

Premier Stephen McNeil on campus to congratulate Enactus team on the success of the Square Roots food token program3

Premier Stephen McNeil came to Saint Mary’s recently to congratulate Enactus team members on the success of the Square Roots food token program, as they prepare for a national competition. Enactus is a global student organization focused on addressing social issues through entrepreneurship. A total of 38 students are heading to Toronto next week to compete in the Enactus Canada National Exposition.

The Province of Nova Scotia recently supported Saint Mary’s work in entrepreneurship when it announced an $11 million investment for the creation of the Entrepreneurship, Discovery and Innovation (EDI) Hub on campus.