MILTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 26, 2013) - A national science project where youth conduct real scientific experiments with tomato seeds previously taken into space was recognized today for its significant contributions to science promotion. The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), attended an award ceremony to celebrate the Tomatosphere Project, which received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Award for Science Promotion.
"Our government understands that encouraging an interest in the sciences is essential to this country's long-term prosperity," said Minister of State Goodyear. "We are pleased to recognize the Tomatosphere Project team for its ongoing efforts to promote science education among youth."
The NSERC Awards for Science Promotion honour individuals and groups who make an outstanding contribution to science in Canada through activities that encourage popular interest in science or develop science abilities.
The Tomatosphere Project won the award in the group category, valued at $25,000. Since 2001 the Tomatosphere Project has provided over two million students from grades two to 10 with a unique opportunity to learn about science and space by performing real research in their classrooms.
Through these experiments, students learn about how the elements of life support requirements for space missions-food, water, oxygen and carbon dioxide consumption. Students also explore how food grows in different environments and the effects of space travel. Results from all the experiments are used by Canadian scientists to help understand some of the issues related to agriculture and long-term space travel.
Former Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk co-founded this education program with University of Guelph researcher Dr. Michael Dixon, while he was working at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Tomatosphere Project leader, Robert Morrow, joined the project in 2002.
"The Tomatosphere Project provides students with real-world research experience that is enjoyable." stated Dr. Robert Thirsk, Vice-President, Public, Government and Institute Affairs, Canadian Institute of Health Research. "The fact that the seeds have been exposed to spaceflight or to Mars-like conditions elevates the students' interest in the care of their plants and the outcomes of the experiment. That is what science is all about."
"The Tomatosphere Project is an innovative approach to motivating young people's involvement in science," said Isabelle Blain, Vice-President of Research Grants and Scholarships at NSERC. "Planting the seeds of scientific discovery ignites young people's imagination and curiosity about how science impacts their daily lives, inspiring them to consider careers in science."
Tomatosphere is sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency, Heinz Canada, HeinzSeed, Stokes Seeds and the University of Guelph. For more information on this project, visit: www.tomatosphere.org.
The award in the individual category, valued at $10,000, was presented to University of Calgary professor, Dr. Tom Keenan on March 20, 2013. Dr. Keenan has promoted science and technology to Canadians of all ages through clear and entertaining explanations of issues involving computer security, the social implications of technology, and the use of technology in education.
NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports almost 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging over 2,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.