Thompson Rivers University

Evacuees and volunteers share EUReKA! moment

December 2, 2021

How do you help flood-evacuated families and give parents a break by entertaining children who’ve been living in a hotel room for weeks?

At Thompson Rivers University, the answer was simple: EUReKA!

Staff and volunteers from the Faculty of Science supporting the university’s EUReKA! Science program held a special one-day camp on Sunday, Nov. 28, to give children evacuated from Merritt’s flood waters a chance to focus on learning and playing.

Shrinky dink cell drawings, marble roller coasters and digital dancing sprites kept the 19 children participants busy for the day.

Haytham El Miiligi, a faculty member in the Department of Computing Science, watched a tearful evacuated mother of three being interviewed on the news, who wondered how her family was going to manage in a cramped hotel room for a month.

“The City of Kamloops and the emergency support services are doing a great job to ensure Merritt residents feel welcomed and safe here in Kamloops, but I felt that I needed to do something to help those people who lost their homes and now live with their kids in very stressful conditions. I wanted to volunteer to help those families in a different way by inviting their kids to participate in a day full of entertainment and educational activities,” said El Miligi, who brought in his two daughters to volunteer.

“This full-day event taught kids new skills and gave their families a chance to have some rest. It was also a great opportunity to give my daughters, who have some programming experience, the chance to volunteer and share their knowledge with other kids. I talked to my daughters about the event and we spent the weekend putting together a few activities for the kids, to teach them the basics of computer programming,” he said.

Kids created pictures of cells that were shrunk down to be more accurate in size.

Camp day began with a look at animal cells, which the kids drew on shrinky dink paper so that once shrunk down, the images were closer to actual cell size. Then they moved on to marble roller coasters built from recycled materials, learning about gravity, kinetic energy and potential energy. Older kids went to a coding workshop, learning to use software to make a sprite dance and creating their own game. Things wrapped up with microscopes and close-up looks at plants, hair, skin and fingernails.

“EUReKA! is a non-profit, student-run organization based out of the TRU Faculty of Science that strives to increase elementary students’ interest in and excitement toward science and engineering. The one-day EUReKA! event was made possible through funding from our EUReKA! partner, Actua, and through the incredible support of our faculty and staff who lived TRU’s Vision of being community-minded redefining the “university as a place of belonging — Kw’seltktnéws (we are all related and interconnected with nature, each other and all things),” said Dean of Science Greg Anderson.

Keanna Pilkington, director of the EUReKA! Science Program, said the day-long event included lunch, snacks and care packages for the kids to take at the end of the day.

“We know that this is a very hard time for these families, and we are very grateful to have had the ability to run this event. We know that the families in attendance were appreciative of the event and that they feel very cared for in the Kamloops community.”

El Miligi, who made the day-long camp an event to share with his own family, said the Merritt kids weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the day.

“The event was not just a fun day for the evacuee children, it was a very special event for my family because we worked together to put a smile on kids’ faces during these difficult times,” he said.

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