2024 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Honoring Excellence and Dedication: Meet Our 2024 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Welcome to our celebration of the remarkable individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Youth Science Canada. Each year, we recognize the hard work and dedication of volunteers and staff who go above and beyond in their commitment to fostering scientific curiosity and achievement among young Canadians. The 2024 Distinguished Service Award winners exemplify innovation, leadership, and a deep-seated passion for youth in STEM. Their stories are a testament to the power of community and the impact of dedicated service. Join us in honouring their achievements and contributions to STEM fairs across Canada.

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Dana Bee

Biography:

Dana Bee is not only a pivotal figure in the Ontario STEM fair community but also the dynamic owner of Chip Time Results, a business that specializes in electronic timing for athletic races across Ontario. Many of these races support charity fundraisers, allowing Dana to blend her passion for sports with community service. Outside of her professional life, Dana stays active with yoga, hiking, and soccer, embracing a lifestyle that balances her entrepreneurial spirit with personal wellness.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:

Dana’s journey with STEM fairs began almost by chance during her college years when she volunteered to fulfil a requirement, but it quickly grew into a deep commitment thanks to the vibrant community and the rewarding nature of the work. Over the years, she has served in numerous capacities, including Co-Chair of BASEF, CWSF and ISEF delegate, and as a member of various committees and panels that shape the STEM fair experience.

Memorable Experiences:

A standout memory for Dana is her role as a chaperone at both the CWSF and ISEF, where she witnessed the transformation of participants from the start to the end of each event. She fondly recalls how students come out of their shells, spurred by the camaraderie and acceptance of being among peers who share their passion for STEM.

Rewards of Her Work:

What Dana finds most fulfilling about her involvement in STEM fairs is the strong sense of community and support among the committee members, many of whom have become close friends. Additionally, seeing the excitement and pride on the faces of young participants when their hard work is recognized is profoundly gratifying for her. These moments underscore the impact of her dedication to fostering a nurturing environment for young innovators.

Jane Berrigan

Jane Berrigan

Biography:
Jane Berrigan is a cornerstone of the Bridgewater community, both as an educator and as a mother. With 25 years under her belt as an educator and currently serving as an Instructional Coach, Jane is deeply involved in shaping teaching strategies across all grades. Outside the classroom, she enjoys her life in Bridgewater, NS, with her husband, Peter, and their daughter, Kate, who is currently thriving in Grade 7 French Immersion.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:
Jane’s passion for STEM began during her own school days and seamlessly transitioned into her teaching career, where she has been a driving force in the South Shore Regional Science Fair for over two decades. As chair of the committee, her leadership has not only guided the fair but also helped fundraise and mentor countless students preparing for significant events like the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF).

Memorable Experiences:
Jane’s dedication to science fairs has been a long-standing commitment, evident since she first led students to the CWSF in 1999. Alongside her husband, Peter, Jane has spent numerous hours mentoring students, from polishing their reports to ensuring they are poised and ready for presentations. This effort has helped her region achieve recognition, including 29 medals and several honorable mentions over the years.

Rewards of Her Work:
For Jane, the most rewarding part of her involvement in STEM is seeing the spark of curiosity ignite in her students and watching them connect their learning to potential future careers. Her work, deeply rooted in Inquiry Based Learning, not only expands students’ horizons but also nurtures their growth, making every moment of her dedication worthwhile.

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Stefane Filion

Biography:

Stefane Filion is a Professional Electrical Engineer and a faculty member at Niagara College where he teaches a range of subjects from industrial robotics to microwave and electrical machines. With a Master’s Degree in Applied Science in Mineral Resources, Stefane began his career in underwater robotics, blending his technical expertise with practical teaching. Outside of academia, he proudly serves in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves, teaching air cadets about aviation, physics, and aerospace. His passion for STEM is deeply rooted, sparked early by his father, a high school teacher and microbiologist.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:

Inspired by his father, Jean-Marc Filion, Stefane was immersed in a world of science from a young age, embarking on his own science fair journey in grade six. This journey continued through high school, yielding multiple national and international awards and leading to significant environmental contributions, including the creation of two provincial fish sanctuaries. His commitment to science fairs has spanned over two decades, including substantial roles such as Judge-in-Chief at the Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Memorable Experiences:

Stefane’s tenure as a chaperone for Team Canada at ISEF stands out, particularly for his efforts in fostering unity among the Canadian delegations. His leadership extended to the regional level where he directed the judging process, setting the stage for professional and fruitful science fair competitions. These experiences, combined with his formative years competing in fairs, equipped him to lead confidently and ensure the success of these critical events.

Rewards of His Work:

The most rewarding aspect of Stefane’s involvement is the opportunity to mentor and guide young scientists, particularly as they prepare for and succeed on the global stage at ISEF. Witnessing the joy and pride in the students when their hard work is recognized is a priceless experience for him, reinforcing the value of his ongoing commitment to the STEM community.

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Jenn Parrott

Biography:

Jenn Parrott combines their passions for science, innovation, and environmental policy in their role at an Inuit Land Claim Organization in the Western Arctic. Outside of STEM fairs, they oversees diverse projects on water quality, climate change, and community health among others, making every day a new adventure above the Arctic Circle. When not immersed in science or policy, Jenn loves running, traveling, and exploring new cuisines with their family.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:

Jenn’s dedication to STEM began over a decade ago and is rooted in their commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity within the community. As a positive LGBTQ2S+ role model, they have championed opportunities for minority populations in STEM, significantly enhancing the accessibility and impact of science fairs across the Northwest Territories. Their roles have evolved from Regional Judge to National Judge and Ethics Officer, reflecting their deep commitment to scientific integrity and education.

Memorable Experiences:

Having made a long-term investment in youth STEM mentorship in the Canadian Artic, there have been countless memorable moments for Jenn. Witnessing self-motivated discoveries in STEM and supporting students’ curiosity and determination as ‘ah-ha’ moments emerge is always a source of joy. Jenn’s efforts have helped many youth see themselves in roles they may never have imagined, significantly shaping their personal and professional paths in STEM.

Rewards of Their Work:

The most rewarding part of Jenn’s involvement is the ongoing impact they have on the youth they mentor. It brings Jenn immense joy when former mentees reach out to share their successes, attributing their achievements and opportunities to the support and inspiration they received at the science fairs. These testimonials fuel Jenn’s passion and commitment to continuing their volunteer work, ensuring a brighter future for the next generation of STEM leaders.

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Lois Peterson

Biography:

Lois Peterson, a dedicated educator and lifelong learner, has woven her passion for science and leadership throughout her impressive career. After teaching at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, where she first fell in love with science fairs, Lois transitioned into administrative roles, guiding the educational paths at eight schools within the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Now retired, she continues to shape future educators as a Field Supervisor and Faculty Advisor at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she also completed her Master’s in Education Leadership.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:

Lois’s journey into the world of STEM began with her role at St. Mary’s High School, where she joined the WWSEF team and hosted her first regional science fair in 1985. Inspired by Albert Einstein’s belief that “Imagination is greater than knowledge,” Lois has dedicated herself to nurturing the curious minds of young scientists. Her commitment to science education has been a guiding force in her career, fostering a love of learning and discovery among her students.

Memorable Experiences:

A highlight of Lois’s involvement in STEM was the 1994 Canada-Wide Science Fair in Guelph, where participants had the unforgettable opportunity to meet Dr. Roberta Bondar and Carl Hiebert. Dr. Bondar’s photographs of Earth from space and Hiebert’s tales from his ultralight plane journey across 5000 miles left a lasting impression on the young attendees, encouraging them to reach for the stars and pursue their dreams with vigor.

Rewards of Her Work:

Lois takes great pride in her role with the Waterloo Wellington Science and Engineering Team, particularly as the current Director. Since 1974, this group has been a cornerstone for young innovators in the region, and Lois finds immense satisfaction in making these enriching experiences available. Celebrating over five decades of inspiring young minds, she cherishes the opportunity to witness the growth and success of the next generation of scientific leaders.

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Dr. Paula Piilonen

Biography:
Dr. Paula Piilonen is not only a distinguished research scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature but also a vibrant part of her community in Dunrobin, where she thrives alongside her husband, Reni, and their greyhound, Cormick. Paula’s life is a beautiful blend of scientific rigor and outdoor adventures, from mountain biking and kayaking on the Ottawa River to relaxing sunsets enjoyed from her deck. An avid squash player and certified Muay Thai instructor, Paula embodies a spirit of dynamism and lifelong learning.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:
Paula’s journey with Youth Science Canada began in high school when she joined the Young Scientists of Canada at the urging of her biology teacher. Her leadership qualities quickly shone through as she took on the role of President of her local chapter and participated in the 1992 CWSF Host Committee. Her early experiences, especially the close-knit community and travels to the 1991 CWSF in Vancouver, not only forged lasting friendships but also highlighted her organizational prowess, setting the stage for her continued involvement over three decades.

Memorable Experiences:
From running midnight bingo sessions to fundraise for the 1992 CWSF to rekindling an old friendship that blossomed into marriage, Paula’s science fair journey is filled with vivid and life-changing moments. Her leadership at the 2008 CWSF in Ottawa and her role as Chair of the 2018 Host Committee are standout memories, showcasing her dedication to creating enriching experiences for participants.

Rewards of Her Work:
For Paula, the most fulfilling aspect of her involvement is the sense of family and camaraderie among the volunteers at YSC. This community, bound by a shared mission to promote STEM, has been a constant source of inspiration and belonging, making every effort worthwhile. Whether at home or abroad, Paula cherishes the universal bond that connects all who are dedicated to nurturing young scientific minds.

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Wendy Shaw

Biography:
Meet Wendy Shaw, a recently retired biology teacher whose enthusiasm for the natural world is as vast as the outdoors she loves to explore. From kayaking to cross-country skiing, Wendy is always on the move, enjoying life’s adventures. Recently, she’s embraced a very special role—being a grandmother. Wendy is excited about the many nature walks and discoveries she’ll share with her grandchild, passing on her love for the environment to the next generation.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:
It all started at a university science fair over 35 years ago, where Wendy first volunteered as a judge. Captivated by the students’ creativity and dedication, she has since become a cornerstone of the science fair community. Whether it’s her long-standing role as a judge at the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair since 1985 or her deep involvement in the Canada-Wide Science Fairs, Wendy’s passion for mentoring young scientists shines brightly.

Memorable Experiences:
One of Wendy’s most cherished roles has been judging at the Canada-Wide Science Fair—not once, but three times! These experiences allowed her to see the event from multiple perspectives, celebrating the achievements of young innovators and helping them reach their potential. As both a judge and a delegate, she’s had the unique opportunity to support and witness the growth of the finalists from her region.

Rewards of Her Work:
For Wendy, the true reward comes from witnessing the culmination of hard work by a vast number of volunteers at the science fair, where enthusiastic students showcase their innovative projects. Seeing the joy and pride on their faces, knowing she played a part in their journey, is profoundly fulfilling. It’s these moments that remind her why she’s dedicated over three decades to fostering a love for STEM in young hearts.

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Katrina Watson

Biography:
Katrina Watson is deeply rooted in Calgary, where she shares her life with her husband and two children. As a dedicated teacher and learning leader with the Calgary Board of Education, she brings her passion for education into every classroom. With degrees in Biomedical Sciences, Education, and a Masters of Education from the University of Calgary, Katrina’s academic journey is as diverse as her interests, which range from reading and running to practicing yoga. Her own science fair project from sixth grade—a working telegraph complete with handmade toothpick poles—still brings a smile to her face.

Involvement in STEM Fairs:
Katrina’s journey into the world of STEM fairs began with the encouragement of her first principal, Arnold Ingelson, whose passion for science education was infectious. Inspired to take a more active role, she joined the Entries Committee of the CYSF, where she was mentored by veterans of the science fair community. Their dedication to fostering student and teacher involvement in science fairs deeply influenced her path.

Memorable Experiences:
One of Katrina’s standout memories is her first time attending the Canada Wide Science Fair as a Delegate in New Brunswick. The event left a lasting impression, from the exceptional student projects to the VIP experiences, including meeting Celebrity Chef Michele Smith and exploring local attractions like the Ganong Chocolate Museum and Fundy National Park. These experiences underscored the celebration of young scientific talent from across Canada.

Rewards of Her Work:
What Katrina finds most rewarding in her STEM fair involvement is the palpable excitement and anticipation among the students. Witnessing a young student eagerly planning his next project even as one fair concludes highlights the unique appeal of the science fair: it’s a place where students are truly driven by their own curiosity and initiative. For Katrina, fostering this enthusiasm is what makes her role truly gratifying.

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