Volunteer Profile: Russell Hassan

Russell Hassan is a Computer Engineering student at the University of Waterloo.

When and how did you first hear about Pueblo Science?

I’m a 1st-year computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo. I’ve been a part of Pueblo Science as both a student and volunteer since it was founded in 2010. Pueblo Science started its after-class science program back when I was in elementary school. My friends and I were really excited as there was definitely a buzz around the program.  We couldn’t wait till Wednesday, when we would try new experiments and watch science unfold in a hands-on manner. While the program taught us concepts relating to science, the more important takeaway at the time was finding out how cool science could be. This, along with friends who were similarly interested in STEM, was one of my main influences that would eventually lead to a passion for sciences, and eventually engineering.

What volunteering activities have you done with Pueblo Science?

With my student participation days in Pueblo Science behind me, I started volunteering for Pueblo Science in Grade 8 by facilitating activities as a junior camp counsellor. This carried over to high school where I participated in science demonstrations in schools as well as public events. I got to share science with young children who were much like me, and to have fun while doing it. In high school, I was also involved in the Rural Initiative for Science Education (RISE) program preparing manuals and organizing data collected from teachers in under-served overseas communities. Currently, I write articles for the blog every now and then.

What attracted you to this cause?

I have been fortunate to have older students and adults mentor me in high school and I feel strongly about “paying it back”. What started out initially as a meaningful option to satisfy the mandatory 40 hours high school volunteer requirement has evolved further. My involvement in various summer and March Break science camps as a Counsellor has given me the chance to lead and I find it fulfilling to cultivate the enthusiasm for Science in young children. Pueblo Science offers me the perfect opportunity to do so.

What inspires you?

It is no surprise my love for Science had been further ignited by Pueblo Science. My other love is music and in high school, I decided to choose a Music Theatre major in an arts-focussed school.  However, my love for Science never wavered.  The hectic school schedule in the Music Theatre program left little room for much as hours were spent rehearsing, competing and performing in Canada as well as in the United States. However, every school break, I continued being involved in STEM related camps, doing science related activities.

After high school, I decided to pursue engineering as I wanted to be able to apply my passion in STEM to computers, which has a huge impact in our lives and which fascinates me.  STEM and Arts don’t have to be separate worlds, even being in a demanding program like engineering that is often associated with a lot of hard work and very little free time to pursue other passions. But that can’t be further from the truth, as you’ll see that people in STEM often carry many interests that they want to share with others. To give an example, despite having a high engineering population, University of Waterloo has a large and thriving A Capella community and many of my close friends in engineering are into the Arts.  I continue to carry that passion as I sing, play instruments, and arrange music through my engineering undergraduate years.

How has the volunteering experience changed you?

Overall, I have to thank Pueblo Science for shaping a large part of who I am today. My experiences with this organization are one part of what inspired me to get into Engineering. Seeing how Pueblo Science enables children to experience the same joy I had as a child makes me realize how I can help make positive changes.  My relationship with Pueblo Science began years ago in elementary school and it’s one that I hope will continue.

Why do you continue to support Pueblo Science?

Pueblo Science striving to promote science knowledge across communities especially the under-served ones really resonates with me. I remembered the happiness I had as a child dabbling in fun experiments. When I was volunteering in the camp or at events, I would never forget the look in some of the children’s eyes as they squealed with enthusiasm and excitement.

What do you think other people should know about Pueblo Science?

Ask anyone who has participated in Pueblo Science events and they will have fond memories of fun experiments like Ice Tornado, Blubber Glove and Instant Popsicle just to name a few!

Volunteering with Pueblo Science was different from the other organizations that I had been with in that I feel a sense of stability, that I am not just there for the short run. However, there’s no pressure that we have to be around forever. We all do whatever we can.  Even though I am no longer physically in Toronto, I try to keep abreast of Pueblo Science’s developments and volunteer when I am back or online.