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Photo courtesy Nick Butt

Science Slam YYC a slam dunk with attendees

By Kristy Koehler, June 5 2019—

Science Slam YYC’s inaugural event was a smashing success and future events are already being planned. The event aims to provide an informal medium for the science community to share their knowledge with the public, as well as other scientists, in a non-traditional way.

Presenters are allotted five minutes on stage to present on any scientific topic that interests them, and to do it in an interesting and exciting way. According to organizer Nick Butt, there are “no boring Power-Point presentations.”

“People can play music, rap, dance, tell stories, use puppets — almost anything,” he says. “Someone danced their science. Someone used a Taylor Swift song to talk about all the stages of pregnancy.”

Butt, a University of Calgary masters student, along with Cumming School of Medicine professor Jeff Dunn, are part of Science Slam YYC’s organizing team.

Started in Vancouver, Science Slams are spreading across the country, bringing scientific topics to the forefront in a fun way.

“The slam format gives people a manageable, approachable, less threatening, more fun way of getting some exposure to science,” says Dunn. “I think it breaks down a lot of barriers and gives people a lot of ways of thinking about science.”

Presenters are judged on their ability to convey their topic to the audience and the judges, who may or may not have a science background.

“You’re judged on your scientific content, the audience participation — actually engaging the audience in some way — and your communication skills,” says Butt.

What’s on the line?

“Pride,” he laughs.

During the inaugural Calgary competition, Butt acted as the ‘sacrificial slam’ — the opening act who primes the audience for what’s to come. Butt says the sacrificial slam is a way to get more people involved who might not want to compete.

“They’re not being judged in the competition but they’re there to give everyone a sense of what it’s going to be like,” he says.

Attendees can expect to see six or seven presentations throughout the course of a Science Slam and plans to expand the event are in the works. It sounds like expansion will be needed, as tickets sold out before the first event.

“We had people waiting in line at he door who didn’t get tickets online,” says Butt. “There were more people interested than we could fit.”

Dunn says the group is always looking for new people to join as part of the organizing team, and are actively looking for science slammers who want to get creative with their own research.

Ticket prices are currently set at $5. The next event takes place June 6 at Wurst. Further event dates and more information are available on the group’s Facebook page at Science Slam YYC.

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