Bringing Soapbox to Windsor: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Weather!

By Dr. Rosa-Maria Ferraiuolo

Why We Brought Soapbox to Windsor… Hosting an event for the first time in a city that has never heard of it before is a very scary task. Only a handful of people in Windsor have heard of what Soapbox Science is and those people are my colleagues because I had the pleasure of being one of 12 speakers at the first Canadian Soapbox at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario!  Soapbox Science Toronto was an amazing experience! It was completely different from any other public event I’ve attended and presented. I wanted to be a part of Soapbox Science so that I can be a part of showing that women can be in science and so that I could try to and show young children that science can be fun and exciting! Having one of the young girls ask about cancer, what it is, how you can get it and me showing her by having her go through my props was one of the most memorable parts of my day! Having her smile at the end and say thank you still makes me smile! You can’t beat the curiosity of the children wanting to know more and asking questions that we as scientists sometimes forget to think about. This event truly revived my love for science. On the train ride back home and getting back into my lab, I couldn’t stop talking about how this was the best experience I’ve had in years! I have always been proud to be a woman in science but being a part of Soapbox Science Toronto made me even prouder! I think we can change the vision of science that the public has, and we can show them that women can be powerful thinkers and we can make a difference!

This year instead of being a speaker I brought the event to Windsor as a local organiser! We had 12 fabulous women from all areas of science. We had experts in the field of computer science, artificial intelligence, biology, physics and medicine!

 

Before the event… Being a local organiser for an event that has never happened before definitely is difficult. People do not know what this event is and often shy away from helping or wanting to commit to something. The hardest part was trying to get speakers. Even with so many social media outlets and emailing various departments of different universities, not many people initially responded to the call. If I had to change one thing, I would have changed the date that I chose to host the event. We hosted it May 12, 2018 alongside Science Rendezvous. This promoted the event beyond what I believed imaginable; but my speaker selection became more difficult because of the date. If I had chosen a date in the Fall, I would have had more researchers available who normally go away to other places for field work. I was in a bit of a panic once I realized not many people were available; thinking I wouldn’t be able to host the event, but my wonderful organizing committee kept pushing and getting the word out and then came the difficult task of choosing 12 speakers out of so many wonderful women. As the day approached the long list of tasks to do was getting smaller, but the looming weather reports was my next hurdle.

 

The day of… Finally, the day arrived! My excitement was through the roof, but as I opened my eyes in the morning, all I could hear was the booming thunder! Yes, the worst weather we could have; thunderstorms all day followed by extremely cold weather and gusts of wind. Since this is an outdoor event, I had message after message coming from all the speakers and the volunteers, “are we still doing this?” As they say, the show must go on! We had to change one rule for the safety of all those attending and because many props were not allowed to get wet, we had to be under the overhang of a building. We were still outside; the speakers and volunteers were troopers! We were all cold and all my volunteers were soaked trying to get the public to the event space, but we did it! We hosted a successful event and all the speakers want to do it again (just hopefully with nicer weather!). Many speakers didn’t want to get off their soapboxes and we finally had a change in weather with 5 minutes left in the event which drew more families to the speakers. With an outdoor event you can’t predict the weather and you can’t control those elements, but Soapbox speakers are always filled with a different kind of energy that keeps them going and makes the event the best it can be!

Even though it was difficult at the beginning and we had the worst weather, being the local event organiser has been an amazing experience and we are excited to have hosted the event. My wonderful volunteers worked so hard to make sure that this event became a success in hopes of continuing to run this event in the coming years!

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