Aneeq Qayyum

Aneeq Qayyum
Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteer at the University of Victoria

“One of the reasons I volunteer is to bring my enthusiasm and perspective on the 'E' in 'STEM'. I hope to inspire as many students as I can to pursue a degree in one of those fields.”

Time volunteering with Let’s Talk Science: 4 years (since 2015)

Area of study: Currently pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering

Inspirational Moment: At the end of each of my class visits, I invite the students to come up and talk to me about anything science related while I’m packing up. This has resulted in some incredibly fascinating and engaging conversations. In particular, I recall a girl in fourth grade who was extremely interested in lasers and wanted to know more about the science behind them. We spoke for almost 10 minutes, during which time I introduced her to several new concepts that she could further research on her own, but I was extremely impressed by how much she already knew. There were some topics that she had a decent understanding of which are normally introduced at the high school level!

That was not a unique experience. I’ve also had similar discussions about many other subjects, including coding, diodes, fingerprints, and pH indicators. I have no doubt that the students I spoke with will go on to do amazing things in the future; many of them were already set on becoming scientists. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to answer their questions and fuel their curiosity for the years to come. As a Let’s Talk Science volunteer, it is those moments where I am able to play a part in inspiring students to pursue their goals that I find the most inspirational.

Favourite Let’s Talk Science volunteering activity: Our site has an annual special event called the “Engineering Olympics”. Though I enjoy delivering a great many Let’s Talk Science activities, this one is my all-time favourite (for obvious reasons)! I also enjoy the kits that require more of an engineering mindset, such as the “Super Science Challenges”, and of course, I favour “It’s Electrifying” because electricity is clearly the coolest thing in the world!

Why do you volunteer with Let’s Talk Science? There are many amazing and knowledgeable volunteers at our site, but most of them are in the traditional science programs (biology, chemistry, physics, or some subclass thereof). We don’t have very many engineers, and so one of the reasons I volunteer is to bring my enthusiasm and perspective on the “E” in “STEM”. I hope to inspire as many students as I can to pursue a degree in one of those fields.

Additionally, engineering is all about connecting theory and practice. Volunteering with Let’s Talk Science feels like a natural extension of this, as I’m able to demonstrate often abstract concepts in a concrete manner through real-world, hands-on examples and activities.

Fun fact: In electrical circuits, the majority of energy does not travel in the wires! Instead, flowing charges merely guide electromagnetic fields that exist around the wires, and it is in these fields that energy is stored and retrieved. Look up the “Poynting vector” for more details.

It is for this reason that energy gets anywhere at all in AC (alternating current) circuits. While the individual electrons inside the wires merely “wiggle” back and forth (hence, “alternating”), the energy propagates alongside the wires, travelling consistently away from the source and toward the load. This also explains the operation of circuits containing elements which are not physically connected (such as a pair of transmitting and receiving antennas). That’s electrodynamics in action!