29th International Chemistry Olympiad - Canada's turn.
Canada will be host to the 29th International Chemistry Olympiad this coming summer between July 13th and July 22nd. The event will take place in Montreal and Lennoxville at McGill and Bishop's Universities, respectively.
Canada first participated in the Chemistry Olympiads in 1986 in Leiden, the Netherlands. When a country joins the scientific olympiad movement it automatically takes on the responsibility of organizing a future event. The Canadian Chemistry and Physics Olympiad (CCPO) programs are run by volunteers from across Canada, all under a Board of Directors. The CCPO is a registered non-profit organization. Canada entered the Physics and Chemistry Olympiads at approximately the same time and, therefore, the Board decided, almost four years ago, to host both Olympiads at the same time, a first for any country. The Physics Olympiads will be held in Sudbury, ON, in the same time frame.
The focus of the Chemistry Olympiad is the contest itself. Pre-university students from 47 countries will sit for two examinations, a five hour practical and a five hour theoretical examination. The former presents a formidable challenge to any organizer, that is, to set up nearly 200 identical laboratory spaces. The examinations themselves are prepared by our national scientific committee (Andre Bandrauk, FCIC, Universite de Sherbrooke; Gordon Bates, MGIC, University of British Columbia, Chair; Suzanne Black, McGill University; David Burns, McGill University; Robert Cook, MCIC, Bishop's University; Jean-Pierre Farant, MCIC, McGill University; Francois Gauvin, MCIC, Bishop's University; Michael Gresser, MGIC, Merck Frosst Canada Inc.; John Harrod, FCIC, McGill University; Gregory Jerkiewicz, Universite de Sherbrooke; Normand Voyer, MCIC, Universite Laval; and Harry Wilson, John Abbott College). The examinations are then presented to the International Jury made up of two educators from each of the 47 nations. The students and the jury members will be staying during the Olympiad at McGill University except for the period involving the approval of the exams. During these three days, the International Jury will be working at Bishop's University more than arms length from the students. After a very lengthy discussion, the exams are approved and then translated into the 30 odd languages used by the competitors.
When the exams are finished, the students and the jury members take part in numerous excursions and cultural events. One day is, however, devoted to more science. With the help of about 10 science-based companies in the Montreal area (among others, Merck Frosst, Bio-Mega Pharma, the Pulp and Paper Institute, Hydro-Quebec (Varennes), Domtar, Noranda, Biotechnology Research Institute), a science day is planned where our visitors will be divided into smaller groups and each group will be sent to a different company. In the evening, Joe Schwarcz and Ariel Fenster, MCIC of Vanier College along with David Harpp, FCIC of McGill will adapt their renowned "Magic of Chemistry" show into a "magic of chemistry" competition. The students will be divided into multi-national teams and they will have to guess the chemistry behind the magic.
The current organizational structure of the Olympiad calls for each host to cover all the expenses of the guests from arrival to departure. Merck Frosst Canada Inc. became involved in this project several years ago and did so in a big way. Their donation of $160,000 (out of a total budget of just over $400,000) gave the organizers the confidence that the Olympiads could be financed. However, with the changing financial climate, this has not been the case. Federal agencies such as NRC, NSERC, Industry Canada, Natural Resources Canada as well as the Ministry of Education of Quebec, the CSC and several other corporations and companies have been very supportive, but we are still almost $100K short of our projected budget.
The Departments of Chemistry at Canadian universities have also been asked to make donations and I am happy to say that we are starting to receive contributions from this source.
As a non-profit organization, we cannot run a deficit and, therefore, as a precaution, one day has now temporarily been removed from the program (a one day visit to Ottawa). If our finances improve, we will add it back in after the closing ceremony.
As you can see from the insert, we are truly going to the grassroots of the Canadian chemistry community for help. Your donation, no matter how small, is important because it will show our visitors the country-wide support we have for this event. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10.00 or more.
I would also ask you to contact the chemical industry in your area to see if they would be willing to participate in this event or to send to the author the name of a contact person for that industry. I have just returned from a I.Ch.O. working group meeting in Warsaw, Poland, where I announced that, for the first time in I.Ch.O. history, a host country may have to ask for voluntary participation fees. This request created tremendous consternation and surprise; consternation because many nations simply cannot afford such fees and surprise because they cannot believe that a country like Canada would have such problems. I sincerely hope we will not have to take this step.
Robert D. Cook, MCIC is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, QC.