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Youth BrainSTEM Alliance

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Fort McMurray is a place known for one thing: oil sands. And though many people across Canada and across the globe have mixed opinions on the oil sands operations, one thing is certain: there are big things happening up here and what we do makes an impact not just on the residents of Wood Buffalo but on the entire world.

THAT IS A BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR A SMALL TOWN and big contributors to that big responsibility are the professional engineers of Wood Buffalo. If you have ever been to a Professional Engineer Induction Ceremony or heard the story of the engineer’s “Iron Ring” you know that engineers are bred with a sense that their roles have real purpose and real impact. An engineer’s duty is to innovate and create while putting at the forefront the impact, whether it be social or economic, of what they produce. Here in Fort McMurray, engineers play a vital role in the continued operations of the oil sands and by extension, to the development of the Wood Buffalo community.

For this reason, oil sands companies scour the globe for the best and brightest engineers to work here in Fort McMurray. This is one of the things that continues to make Wood Buffalo one of the most diverse regions in the world. But did we ever stop to look at the potential we have right here in our own backyards? With so much talent coming to Fort McMurray and staying here, why can’t we pluck great talent from within our eclectic municipality? Why not breed great engineers right here at home?

Resident D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika believes we can and should do just that.

Wilson-Ihejirika moved to Fort McMurray just a little over a year ago and seeing the massive potential here, decided to revamp her entrepreneurial venture, BrainSTEM Alliance. BrainSTEM Alliance is a consulting initiative that works with local educational institutions and nonprofits to incorporate engineering outreach into their current programming. STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” and the organization focuses on outreach in these areas as well as Entrepreneurship and Leadership.

Wilson-Ihejirika had worked with organizations in Montreal, Toronto, and in her home country of the Bahamas, and saw that she could make a big impact here in Fort McMurray.

“There are so many talented engineers right here in Fort McMurray that we have all the resources we need to spread this knowledge to the younger generation and to continue to keep great talent right here in our community.”

BrainSTEM Alliance began working with the Fort McMurray Public Library on their Mad Science Day. The kids were able to learn about paper airplanes and rockets, gooey slime-making and marshmallow and Jell-O earthquake buildings!

BrainSTEM then participated with the Justin Slade Youth Foundation “No Limits” Youth Empowerment Day, speaking to youth about entrepreneurship and how engineering innovation can tie into that.

Most recently, in fall 2012, BrainSTEM created an eight-week engineering program for the Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta, partnering with the APEGA Fort McMurray Branch and the Oil Sands Discovery Centre. The girls were able to learn about concepts in multiple engineering disciplines from chemical engineering to aeronautical engineering, mechanical, civil and more. The program was so well received that another will be scheduled for 2013.

Right now, BrainSTEM is working with the Father Mercredi High School’s robotics team, coordinating engineering mentors to guide the students in concepts of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering as well as project development techniques. With the help of these mentors, the students went on to compete in the first robotics regional competition held in Calgary April 2013.

BrainSTEM continues to work with different organizations, now beginning to develop sessions with Keyano College, Science Alberta Edacity program, and the Boys and Girls Club, to name a few. Wilson-Ihejirika believes that with the support of the many talented engineers that Fort McMurray has to offer, BrainSTEM can make a huge impact on our community. And we won’t have to look far for the next generation of ‘best and brightest’ engineers.

For more on the BrainSTEM Alliance visit their website at: or contact Wilson-Ihejirika directly at: