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BrainSTEM unconference

WHAT WAS THE BRAINSTEM UNCONFERENCE? A collaboration between Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and Waterloo-based Communitech, the BrainSTEM unconference was an invitation-only summit designed to connect creative, like-minded content architects with science outreach experts, digital media professionals, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the digital media and education space. The BrainSTEM unconference took place at Perimeter Institute and Communitech in Waterloo, Ontario from Monday, June 25 through Wednesday, June 27 2012.

Inspired by the work of digital media educators and entrepreneurs like MinutePhysicsCrashCourseRadioLab, and Khan Academy, this three-day idea incubator will bring together talented individuals from around the world with overlapping interests in three spheres: digital media, science, and education. 

Instead of passively listening to "sage on the stage" presentations, participants at the BrainSTEM unconference will actively participate in setting the topics for discussion in advance of the event. The unconference  will start with a single keynote talk from an innovator, and then the participants will carry the conversation forward through two days of focused, facilitated discussions. 

The BrainSTEM unconference will also feature a unique on-site competition with teams of exceptionally talented young content creators building videos, games, and/or apps during an non-stop 48-hour sprint.  With a $25,000 dollar top prize, the contest is guaranteed to be intense!

About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) is an independent, non-profit, scientific research organization working to advance our understanding of physical laws and develop new ideas about the very essence of space, time, matter, and information. Located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, PI also provides a wide array of research training and educational outreach activities to nurture scientific talent and share the importance of discovery and innovation among students, teachers, and the general public. In partnership with the Governments of Ontario and Canada, PI is a successful example of public-private collaboration in scientific research, training, and outreach. www.perimeterinstitute.ca

About Communitech

We help technology companies start, grow, and succeed. Communitech is a not-for-profit organization that supports technology companies in Waterloo Region that promotes the region as a technology cluster. Our programs and events connect professionals, share ideas, and strengthen companies. We also champion innovation and collaboration on a provincial and national level. Learn more about Communitech at https://www.communitech.ca.

Perimeter Institute and Communitech gratefully acknowledge the support and leadership of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. FedDev Ontario recognizes and supports the need for a vibrant science, technology, engineering, and mathematics community closely linked to the world of business and entrepreneurs.

Name Title Affiliation Primary Location
Marie-Claire Shanahan Associate Professor, Science Education and Science Communication University of Alberta Alberta
Derek Muller Creative Director Veritasium Sydney, Australia
John Green Author   Indianapolis, IN
Carin Bondar Writer/Blogger/Filmaker Freelance/David Suzuki Foundation/SciAM British Columbia
John Pavlus Writer/Director/Founder Small Mammal Brooklyn, NY
Brady Haran Video Journalist Periodic Videos Nottingham, UK
Chris Casella Managing Director ScienceAlert Australia
Nelson Dunk Producer Skylight Productions Waterloo, ON
Angela Maiers Founder and President Maiers Education Services Clive, Iowa
Vi Hart Mathemusician Khan Academy California
Olivia Koski Senior Producer The Atavist Brooklyn, NY
Sheila Barry Co-Publisher Groundwood Books Toronto, ON
Crystal Dilworth   Piled Higher and Deeper California
Mark Rosin Director (US) UCLA and co-founder of Guerilla Science San Francisco, California
Jace Meyer Manager of Member Services and Outreach Programs Actua Outreach Ottawa, ON
Mark Zwicker Director of Technology Actua Outreach Ottawa, ON
Karen Klink Educational Programs Manager Research in Motion Waterloo
Jinty Smith Educational Programs Specialist Research in Motion Waterloo
Krister Shalm Postdoctoral Fellow IQC Waterloo
Louis Leblond Postdoctoral Researcher Perimeter Institute Waterloo
Rob Spekkens Faculty Perimeter Institute Waterloo
Henry Reich Creator MinutePhysics Waterloo
Cara Santa Maria Science Correspondent The Huffington Post Los Angeles, California
Destin Sandlin Learner/Explorer/Creator Smarter Every Day Decatur, Alabama
Joanne Manaster Blogger/Vloger Joanne Loves Science Illinois
Sai   CogSai North Carolina
Iyinoluwa Aboyeji   Bookneto  
Catherine Anderson   Science World/UBC  
Sandra Corbeil   National Science and Technology week  
Simon DeBoer   InGamer Fantasy Inc.  
Richard Epp   Perimeter Institute  
Steve Farlow   Schlegel Center for Entrepreneurship  
Rebekah Fraser   Real World STEM  
Colin Grey   C.G.P. Grey/YouTube  
Chris Howlett   Waterloo Accelerator Centre  
Sarah MacLachlan   House of Anansi  
John Short   Machteld Faas Xander  
John Sobol   The Media League  
Isabella Stefanescu   Inter Arts Matrix  
Michael Stevens   Vsauce/YouTube  
Frank Taylor   Title Entertainment  
Michael Merrifield   University of Nottingham  


The BrainSTEM unconference took place at the Perimeter Institute and Communitech in Waterloo, Ontario from Monday, June 25 through Wednesday, June 27 2012.

  Monday, June 25, 2012 
 When What Who Where
 4:00 pm Opening reception All participants Perimeter Institute
 5:00 pm Program strategy session All participants Perimeter Institute
 6:00 pm Opening BBQ All participants Perimeter Institute


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

 When What Who Where
 8:00 am Continental breakfast All participants Perimeter Institute
 8:30 am Opening keynote address All participants Perimeter Institute
 9:30 am Facilitated sessions - block #1 All participants Perimeter Institute
 11:00 am Facilitated sessions - block #2 All participants Perimeter Institute
 Noon Networking lunch All participants Perimeter Institute
 1:30 pm Digital competition mentoring sessions All participants and pitch competition teams Perimeter Institute
 2:45 pm Facilitated sessions - block #3 All participants Perimeter Institute
 4:00 pm Facilitated sessions - block #4 All participants Perimeter Institute
 6:00 pm Communitech tour and reception All participants and pitch competition teams Communitech
 8:00 pm    onwards Late-night informal gathering All participants and pitch competition teams Location TBD


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

 When What Who Where
 8:00 am Continental breakfast All participants Perimeter Institute
 8:30 am Facilitated sessions - block #5 All participants Perimeter Institute
 9:45 am Facilitated sessions - block #6 All participants Perimeter Institute
 11:00 am Digital competition presentations All participants and competition teams Perimeter Institute
 12:30 pm Closing luncheon/digital competition awards All participants and competition teams Black Hole Bistro
 2:00 pm Event ends    




Angela Maiers - Speaker. Writer. Passionate Educator

Angela is an active blogger, social media evangelist, and passionate advocate for bridging the gap between business and education. She is a recognized educational leader, trainer, and author. She is the owner and Chief Learning Officer at Maiers Education Services, a company emphasizing the creative use of technology and social media to advance learning; in and out of the classroom.


At the BrainSTEM unconference, there will be six timeslots for facilitated group discussions based on participant-determined topics.

Participants are invited – and strongly encouraged -- to propose and develop the session topic ideas in the weeks leading up to the event.  Concepts and comments can be added to the BrainSTEM planning wiki.

Please refer to your conference confirmation letter for details on how to access the wiki page. Can’t find your letter? Contact brainstem[at]perimeterinstitute[dot]ca.

The BrainSTEM unconference is a by-invitation event. Perimeter Institute staff will be in contact with each participant to provide details on travel and accommodations. If you are a confirmed participant and have questions about your travel to Waterloo or your hotel arrangements, please contact   brainstem[at]perimeterinstitute[dot]ca.

It's not your average hack-a-thon. The BrainSTEM Build-a-thon is a chance to compete for $25,000! The competition will take place at Perimeter Institute in Waterloo and is open to 8 teams of 2-4 university and college undergrad/ grad students who will have 48 hours to execute on a digital media product in the form of a:

  • Game
  • Video
  • App

The final product must be viewable on the web, and at the end of the 48 hours, the teams must be able to demo the product to a panel of judges. The judging panel will select the best projects and determine which teams will receive:

  • First Prize of $25,000
  • Second Prize of $15,000
  • Third Prize of $5,000


Move in, set-up and information session at Perimeter Institute: Sunday, June 24, 1-4 pm

Competition begins: Monday, June 25, 8 am

Competition ends: Wednesday, June 27, 8 am

Demo sessions and judging: Wednesday, June 27, 11 am-12:30 pm

Awards presented: Wednesday, June 27, 1-2 pm

For more information about the BrainSTEM unconference, please contact brainstem[at]perimeterinstitute[dot]ca.