Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair.  This fair attracts students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 to compete for awards and opportunities to represent the region at the Canada-Wide Science Fair organized by Youth Science Canada.  I have volunteered to help out with the running of the regional fair for approximately 15 years now.  A few years ago, I accepted the role of Division Co-Chair for the Engineering Division of the fair.  Essentially, this means that I co-ordinate the judging of the engineering projects and I participate in selecting the award-winning projects.


This year’s fair was the largest in recent years with 250 projects on display.  Locally, there has been a renewed interest in science projects.  I have no doubt that this is likely related to Donna Strickland receiving a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018.  For many years, she has served as a judge at the fair, inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.  For an idea of what the fair looked like, check out the following image of the display booths at the fair.


I was impressed by a number of projects that I had an opportunity to assess including two projects by Grade 12 students who have both applied to Waterloo Engineering.  Both of these students were looking forward to attending the University of Waterloo and I have no doubt that they will be highly successful here.  There were also some exceptional junior and intermediate projects.  One project that I particularly liked was a project that implemented a “Multispectral Detector for Non-Destructive Testing of Food”.  The project involved the design of electronics, software, and 3D printed casings for a handheld device to assess the freshness of fruit (in particular, pears).  Using the ingenious device, a person could quantitatively predict the ripeness of a pear.  It was an amazing project made even more impressive by the fact that it was designed, built, and tested by a Grade 7 student.

The complete list of 2019 Grand Award Winners is now available online.  The Award of Excellence for the best overall project at the fair was given to an engineering project entitled, “Random Forest Classification of Histopathological Images”.  This project attempted to automate detecting cancer in medical images.  The tool was not designed to replace a pathologist but rather to assist a pathologist in detecting false negatives (i.e., missing potential signs of cancer in a patient).  It was an impressive project from a student who has previously represented the region at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

On behalf of the University of Waterloo and the over 200 volunteers from the community who assist with the operation of the fair, I would like to congratulate all participants on a great event celebrating science and engineering.  All of the students who participated should be very proud of their accomplishments.

I would also like to point out that regional fairs such as the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair without generous donations from local companies and individuals.  If you are interested in supporting the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair, you may do so easily using Canada Helps.  The Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair is a registered charity in the Province of Ontario.

18 thoughts on “Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair”

  1. From seeing the number of applicants and the averages those applicants have, would you say that the graph provided “Chances for 2019” is accurate for computer engineering?


  2. In the final round of admissions does waterloo look at the 5 prerequisites + highest U/M course or just the 5 prerequisites?


    1. It is important to remember that we look at much more than a single grade average. When we make our admissions decisions, we see individual grades in your 5 required courses and your 6th course. In addition to grades, we see selected fields from the AIF, your AIF score, your interview score, your school’s adjustment factor, and anything else we think is relevant to the admission process that we can obtain from either OUAC or your AIF.

      We can also tell if grades are final grades or midterm grades. If the grades were taken outside of a traditional Ontario Secondary School, we can also see the grading system used. In some cases, grades are adjusted to account for different grading schemes. We will see the grade prior to adjustment as well as the grade after adjustment.

      We can also see comments from Admission Officers. If something exceptional is noticed at any time during the admissions process, this will be flagged in a comment field in our database. Comments might include additional information provided by an applicant by e-mail, highlights of an AIF to ensure that a particular item is not missed, or notes about a school or course taken.


  3. Does the Engineering Admissions office have a specific day they are planning on sending final round decisions?


    1. We do not provide a specific day but everyone will know a result by the middle of May at the latest. We are just finishing the final admission round selection in our office. We will then move on to selecting scholarship recipients. Finally, we will communicate the results. As you can probably appreciate, it takes a fair amount of time to do the processing. We are moving as quickly as we can.


      1. Do you mean that only after scholarship recipients are decided, final admissions will be sent? And if that is the case, we shouldn’t expect anything until mid next week?


      2. Scholarship decisions do not usually take much time. As we make admissions decisions, we try to keep track of highly-qualified applicants for scholarships. I do not know the exact timing of when students will know whether they have been accepted or rejected. I do expect some offers to be given out very soon.


  4. Hey Professor Bishop,
    Just wondering if you could rank all of the engineering disciplines at Waterloo in order of decreasing competitiveness?


    1. It would be very difficult to rank programs in any meaningful way. I have some ideas of ways to compare our programs that I hope to present in a future blog post. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that grades are only part of our assessments. There are always students with very high grades that are rejected and students with high 80’s grades that are accepted to each program.


      1. Both programs are competitive but I would actually say that the Software Engineering program is the more competitive of the two programs. It is important to remember that the Mechatronics program admits nearly twice as many students.

        For the Software Engineering program, a significant weight is placed on software experience. I performed the individual selection for the Software Engineering program. All of the applicants offered admission to Software Engineering had significant programming experience and exceptional grades. Many outstanding applicants could not be offered admission to Software Engineering this year.


    1. It is still reasonably accurate. It is surprisingly difficult to produce good data in admissions. Applicant numbers fluctuate significantly throughout the admission process as applicants withdraw their applications or as applicants receive admission. The graph produced by Bill Anderson was accurate at the instant in time that it was created.


      1. Do you think it’s gotten more competitive this year? It’s my first choice. I have already gotten into CS at Waterloo but I’d rather pursue an engineering program if possible.


      2. The competition to get into Systems Design Engineering is quite high for domestic applicants. It is slightly easier to get into if you are a visa applicant since the program is not as well known outside of Canada. All admission decisions will be communicated soon. Be patient and hope for the best.


    1. I honestly do not know the answer to your question. Admission decisions have been made for engineering applicants but work remains to code offer conditions and to award scholarships. Work will likely continue throughout the weekend.

      I understand that applicants are likely very anxious right now. We are doing the best we can to process everything. It does take quite a bit of time to make decisions and to communicate them. This is especially true given the large volume of applications our programs receive.


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