National Science and Innovation Gala honours bright young minds, steampunk style

Governor General David Johnston delivered opening remarks at inaugural awards ceremony

Think gothic meets Victorian meets the circus (in its glorious heyday), and there you have the fantastical retro-futuristic steampunk theme of the new National Science and Innovation Gala, held Wednesday at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Hundreds of guests arrived in their goggles and gadgets and corsets and cinchers for a steampunk-inspired evening that was more out of this world than the International Space Station.

The evening celebrated the winners of the STEAM Horizon Awards. It’s a newly funded scholarship program that invites Canada’s bright-minded youth to promote positive changes throughout their community using science, technology, engineering and mathematics, together with the arts. Winners scored $25,000 each to study in a related field at a Canadian university or college.

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On hand for the ceremony was Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who recently co-authored a book with Tom Jenkins on Canadian innovations.

National Science and Innovation Gala

“Is this the stuff of science fiction?” he said in his opening remarks, referring to the gala’s robotic vehicles, virtual reality drones and other cool gadgets and gizmos. “In fact, science fictions writers are having a hard time writing ‘science fiction’ these days because it’s become ‘science fact.’”

The fourth industrial revolution is changing the world through science, innovation and emerging technology, he continued.

“And so, in such times, we must find new ways to adapt and keep pace. If change is the new constant then innovation is the new imperative. The only question then is to what extent do we shape and lead that change? We paddle a canoe rather than being thrust into the rapids and be carried by them.”

“If change is the new constant then innovation is the new imperative.”


The governor general listed off several Canadian innovations, from the cardiac pacemaker to life-saving insulin to the one-time ubiquitous BlackBerry. His personal favourite is the light bulb, which was the bright idea of two Toronto inventors. Unfortunately, the men couldn’t come up with enough financing to continue on and sold their patent to famous American inventor Thomas Edison.

“I love that particular one because we have that expression ‘And the light went on’ as an expression that illuminates our mind when we do something very innovative,” said Johnston.

His presence at the event was duly and gratefully noted by the evening’s charming emcee, CBC News Network morning host Heather Hiscox. Johnston, an avid hockey fan, was missing the third game of the Ottawa Senators’ Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh to attend that night, she pointed out.

National Science and Innovation GalaNational Science and Innovation GalaNational Science and Innovation GalaNational Science and Innovation Gala

Chris Kitzan, director general of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, was pleased to see the collaboration of more than a dozen partners from government, industry and academia.

His colleagues, Christina Tessier, director general of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and Kerry-Leigh Burchill, director general of the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, really nailed the dress code, by the way. All three museums are run by the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporations.

The $150-a-ticket gala was catered by Chef Michael Blackie of NeXT while Sharon Bosley House from Avant-Garde Designs creatively brought the mashup steampunk theme to life with her cogs and clockwork decor, along with her mechanical, moving creation named Rusty.


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