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WHERE Challenge targets future Earth scientists

 An urgent need to attract students to the Earth sciences has sparked a national contest for Canadian youth. Sponsored by EnCana Corporation and Teck Cominco Limited and in celebration of the International Year of Planet Earth and National Science & Technology Week, the WHERE Challenge is designed to get young people aged 10 – 14 years thinking about what on Earth is in their stuff and WHERE on Earth it comes from.

The launch of the WHERE Challenge in Sudbury took place at Science North on October 21st. Local students took part in the event, exploring the Earth’s resources that are found in common household items. Todd McCracken, chief geologist with Vale Inco’s North Mine was also on hand to tell the students about career opportunities in the Earth sciences.

“Inspiring young minds to discover science and carry it with them throughout their lives is what Science North is all about,” said Dr. David Pearson, Science North Science Director. “We were very excited to promote the opportunity to students and visitors as the WHERE Challenge fits perfectly with that goal,”

The hope is that by encouraging bright young minds to think about the many ways the Earth’s resources support everyday life, the Challenge will also encourage students to consider Earth sciences as an exciting educational and career opportunity.

According to the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES), Canada is facing a looming and wide-ranging shortage of qualified Earth scientists. The oil and gas, mining, environmental and geotechnical sectors, as well as government and academia are all predicted to face serious challenges in attracting new talent. Many workers are nearing retirement and that – coupled with rising commodity demands, advances in technology and emerging issues such as the need for new discoveries, sustainable resource development and an increased focus on environmental geoscience, has the country facing alarming shortages over the next five to 10 years.

“We’re experiencing growing shortages across our entire profession,” said CFES president Ian Young. “The time to attract students to the Earth sciences is now, because the gap between the talent we have and the talent we need is reaching a point where it will begin to affect the Canadian economy.”

The WHERE Challenge is inviting students and schools to compete for thousands of dollars in regional and national cash prizes by creating a story around any object in their home or school, identifying one or more non-renewable Earth resources found in that object and WHERE on Earth those resources come from. Entries can be submitted until February 28th, 2009. Contest details are available at www.earthsciencescanada.com.

“Creating understanding in young people about Earth science is more important than ever,” said Young. “These kids represent the future of the science. It’s their imagination and innovation that we’ll be relying on as we face increasing pressures on our natural resources.”

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