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Experience science differently at Ottawa’s first Science Slam

By Michelle Di Cintio on January 30, 2018

A science slam is not your everyday, humdrum science lecture. It’s a talk about your centre of gravity that begins with a ballet. A Halloween themed poem that explains in rhyme the psychology behind certain paranormal experiences. A physicist that details his plan to escape aging, via black hole time warping.

Science Slam Canada, the brainchild of Nicole Berreth and Alan Shapiro, travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa to present at the Canadian Science Policy Conference—and people were hooked. April Killikelly and Jesse Rogerson are just two of a loose collection of eight people who are organizing Ottawa’s very first science slam on February 9. April works at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Jesse works at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Both are very passionate about science communication and outreach.

“I’ve always been kind of communication oriented and I found that there wasn’t a whole lot of space for that in [traditional] science,” April said. And as fun as grad work was, Jesse said “I just wanted to hang out with people and just… talk about science because I like science, not because I had to do it.” As soon as they saw the slam, April and Jesse both knew they had to organize one for Ottawa.

The format is simple enough: presenters have five minutes to communicate a scientific topic in the most engaging way they can. No slide shows allowed. Presentations are judged on their creativity, their scientific accuracy, and perhaps most importantly, their audience engagement.

“It’s science in a different light,” Jesse explains. “You’re passionate about science for a reason, there’s something that you like about what you do: 90% of it is just hard work that you have to do but that other 10% is something that you really like. And this is the chance where you get to spend the entire time talking about that 10%.” Despite the out-of-touch stereotype, there are a lot of people chomping at the bit to explain their passions in a way that doesn’t involve dry statistics and graphs.

While all the performers have already signed on for this first slam, tickets are still available for those interested in attending. “It’s science through the back door,” April says, enthusiastically describing the experience of watching a slam.

“This is the chance to see science in a different way, to see the people in a different way… to socialize the way you want to socialize but with science entertainment instead of music entertainment… You get to see something you think you know in a different light,” Jesse says.

Ottawa’s first Science Slam will be February 9 from 7-9pm at Flapjack’s Canadian Diner (354a Preston Street). Tickets are available from Eventbrite for $7.50 plus fees. Further details can be found on the Science Slam Ottawa Facebook event page.