Surrey youth embrace STEM challenge at Surrey Libraries

STEM participants hard at work developing their strong structure.

ON February 16, Surrey Libraries’ Fleetwood Teen Library Council hosted its first-ever STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Challenge. More than 70 teens arrived to take part in the event encouraging learning in STEM fields.

The Teen Library Council (TLC) is an opportunity for youth aged 13-18 to become ambassadors for their peers at Surrey Libraries. The TLC aims to develop inclusive, teen-oriented programs, reach out teens in the community, and provide input on library services for teens. TLC members are the voice of Surrey teens and earn service hours toward their graduation requirements. There are four TLCs based out of City Centre, Fleetwood, Guildford, and Semiahmoo libraries and are supported through a grant from Coast Capital Savings.

The STEM Challenge was organized and coordinated entirely by the Fleetwood TLC, headed up by Sophie Lin and assisted by Julia Luu. The event featured three presenters: Dr. Toby Donaldson from SFU’s computing science department, James Lau, math teacher at Fraser Heights Secondary and Harvard University-bound Fraser Heights Secondary student, Brandon Tang, whose focus is on engineering. Each presenter spoke for 20 minutes on their fields and provided guidance on how to excel in STEM fields in order to get into the best universities.

The event then moved into a fun competition where participants formed teams of seven to see who could build the strongest bridge out of popsicle sticks. After a quick snack break, the teens again formed teams to come up with an idea for the “Innovation Challenge” where the best hypothetical new idea to help change the world for the better would be up for cash prizes. The Innovation Challenge was judged by three, 4th year engineering students from UBC. The winning team came up with the idea of phosphorescent salt that would light upon contact with black ice to make winter roads safer.

“This was an amazing opportunity for teens to be exposed to STEM-related teaching and activities,” said Claire Badali, Information Services Librarian at Surrey Libraries, Fleetwood. “Many teens don’t have access to free events like this and the library is proud to support these types of learning opportunities for our community.”

Comments from teens included: “Thank you so much for this amazing event! I feel like the advice given by the presenters will help me in the future” and, “I liked the opportunity to be creative.”

Surrey Libraries works to provide innovative programming like the STEM Challenge throughout the year. For information on programs, visit the events listing page on Surrey Libraries website at