New Iqaluit STEAM camp sees high demand

Youth will learn about DNA, see how computers ‘think’ and try 3D painting

Two one-week STEAM camps will be run by Pinnguaq at their Makerspace in Iqaluit this month. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

There’s a high demand for science and technology learning in Iqaluit, with an upcoming STEAM camp’s registration filling up in about 24 hours.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, and each day of the camp will be devoted to one of these topics, camp leader Ben Westwell said.

“I’m really excited to share my enthusiasm [for STEAM] and to see the kids learning,” said Westell, who is leading the camp run by Pinnguaq, explained.

Pinnguaq — which means play — is a not-for-profit organization that works with Indigenous and remote communities to develop STEAM skills.

“That’s just an awesome feeling when you see a kid learning something and their eyes just light up.”

The camp runs two week-long sessions, the first beginning on Aug. 23 and the second on Aug. 30.

On the first day, campers — ages 8 to 14 — will learn about how DNA works, using strawberries as a hands-on example for experiments.

Day two, with technology as its theme, will be a lesson about how computers “think.”

On the engineering day, an egg-drop will challenge participants to protect an egg from a two-storey fall.

To explore art, Westwell will convert one of Pinnguaq’s three 3D printers into a 3D paintbrush, so digital paintings can be made into real-life art.

On the last day, the students will explore math by counting and dividing pizza slices.

The overall goal is to get youth in Iqaluit and Nunavut excited about these subjects, Westwell said.

“The more people we get enthusiastic at a young age, the better chance they [will be] at an older age and want to learn about it in high school and college,” he said.

The camp is the first in-person programming Pinnguaq has done for youth since COVID-19 related restrictions eased in Iqaluit, allowing them to end the summer with two five-day-long camps.

With all the spots in the two free weeks of camp at the end of August filled up so quickly, Westwell said the organization is looking at adding a third week.

If youth enjoy the camp and organizers with Pinnguaq see it is having a good impact, Westwell said it could “definitely” be run again in the future.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Wake Up Call on

    This is wonderful, we need more of this in Nunavut, but great start and I am heartened to see the enthusiasm. Take note leaders…

  2. Posted by Curious cat on

    Wonder what ever happened to the 10 Million they won, or the Inuit supposed to be hired by the federal money they got. Another organization created to “help” Inuit that probably has non Inuit management and clearly non Inuit employees. Hardly news, more like the status quo of Nunavut.

    • Posted by Observation Post on

      What are you talking about specifically?

      I’m not sure if what is mentioned above is related as your points as they are so poorly laid out and cryptic, but let’s say the organization who is hosting this camp is–*gasp* – non-Inuit!

      So what?

      Your main concern should be the ability and competence of those running it to convey otherwise complex information to children. That’s really it. But of course, in typical “status quo” fashion of Nunavut, everything devolves into fantasies about “race”.

      Be careful. It would be a pyrrhic victory to run a program by your preferred group if they weren’t prepared or able to do it well. Who really benefits from that in the long run?

    • Posted by jn on

      Also curious and would like to know about it if it is being used appropriately.

    • Posted by Aaasi on

      They keep not letting me post the link, if you google you can see that in May 2019 they were awarded $10 million. They certainly haven’t spent any of that money in Nunavut.

      • Posted by Pinnguaq on

        Thank you so much for your question. Here is the website for the project – The Executive Director Brian Pottle is communicating with communities directly. If the Makerspace Network is interesting to you and your community, and you want to be involved, email and we will help to facilitate the connections!

  3. Posted by Excited on

    Got overly excited for a moment because I thought the article was talking about Steam, the online platform for children’s video games.

  4. Posted by Concerned Parent on

    When do the small communities get a turn? There are also students outside of Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

    • Posted by Question on

      Pinnguaq was originally started and operated in Pangnirtung. Once they received the $10 million they began expanded heavily on Ontario and other provinces, but stopped expanding in Nunavut other then Iqaluit and Pangnirtung. Good question to ask them.

      • Posted by Southerner in the North on

        This is simply untrue. Pinnguaq has partnered with the Department of Family Services and will be providing programs and job training in every Nunavut community this year in Kivalliq and Qikiqtani. The Kitikmeot Friendship Society will be providing similar programs in Kitikmeot in partnership with the Department of Family Services.

        • Posted by Pinnguaq on

          Thank you so much for your questions! Pinnguaq has been delivering programs throughout Nunavut remotely during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Starting in September, we are returning to in-community learning in 16 communities. For more information and the dates we will visiting Cambridge Bay and other communities, please email and we will make sure you get the information to participate. If you’re interesting in volunteering to grow opportunities for a Makerspace in your community, please let us know and we will connect you with

    • Posted by Talk to your Admin on

      Go into the school, make an appointment to sit down with the principal or VP and tell them that you want your children to learn these life skills.

      I will say some small communities DO have these in their schools but were probably restricted in their usage due to COVID protocols.

  5. Posted by Rankin Inlet Resident on

    I would love my 8 year old son in Rankin Inlet to participate in this. I am teaching him evolution and DNA to the best of my ability, I am sure he would love this. We need more of these things for kids… this is the future.

    • Posted by I can imagine… on

      I can imagine a day when one of our school children creates a robotic device to crawl under the ocean ice, measuring the thickness of the ice, temperature of the water, salinity, etc when we encourage the children of Nunavut at all grade levels to pursue these technical courses.

      • Posted by Pinnguaq on

        Hi there! SIKU, Smart Ice and Pinnguaq are collaborating on lots of opportunities with the hopes that your vision can come to light. If you want more information about our programs and opportunities and Makerspace growth, please email Thank you!!!!

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