A Collingwood-based science and technology company hopes to encourage more youth into STEM industries.
Science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM as its now referred to – is seeing a big push from related industry as the demand for those expertise increases.
In Collingwood, The Isowater Corporation is one such company in the industry hoping to inspire future employees while they are still in high school.
In addition to being a top co-op employer in Simcoe County, Isowater has developed its own annual STEM awards, which are given to high school students in the county who demonstrate excellence in one or more of the STEM fields.
“There’s a science gap here and we want to fill that gap,” said Lisa Stuart, vice president of sales and marketing for Isowater. She and her husband Andrew Stuart started the company in 2009.
Before launching Isowater, Andrew Stuart was one of the world’s leading hydrogen experts. When he heard then Prime Minister Stephen Harper announce the privatization of Canada’s nuclear power industry, he had an idea.
There’s a product used to cool nuclear reactors called heavy water. It’s a product that isn’t much different from “light” water (or regular water) other than it contains deuterium oxide in high concentration. It’s naturally occuring and can be extracted from a regular water source.
Heavy water is not irradiated, it can be used to cool nuclear reactors, but is not part of the nuclear power generation process outside of its cooling effects.
The Canadian government has a surplus store of it, and is now allowing private industry access.
The Isowater Company in Collingwood sells Canada’s heavy water for various uses in the scientific community.
According to Isowater, deuterium isotopes have possible applications pharmaceutical, diagnostics, hydrology, fibre optics, semiconductors and scientific research and manufacturing.
Early trials using heavy water to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs show positive results in reducing side effects due to the slower absorption rate of heavy water over regular water.
At Isowater, there are two science streams including engineering/research and development and laboratory science. There are also several employees involved in shipping and receiving the product. The Collingwood location doesn’t store large quantities of heavy water, it’s a central shipping location for the product.
“We could be based anywhere, but we want to be based here because we love it here,” said Lisa. She and her husband enjoy the outdoor activities and were glad to raise their children in Collingwood.
Both children participated in science fairs - of which Lisa is a big proponent - and both went into STEM industry programs - one for material engineering and one for chemical engineering.
“They did science fairs and it changed their life,” said Lisa, adding she’s glad for the teachers who put forth extra initiative and encourage their students to participate in science fairs. “It’s a lot for teachers to take on as extracurriculars, but it’s an amazing opportunity to grow and learn through the science fair process.”
As the world’s first private company selling and distributing heavy water to the private industry, The Isowater Company hopes to inspire young STEM-minded students to be innovative and understand the limitless possibilities in the industry. Lisa said they will be expanding the awards program and are experimenting with youth outreach programs in local community centres, the details of which are still under wraps. Isowater tries to provide a non-traditional coop experience for as many youth as possible.
“Geeks love us,” she said.
Secondary or post-secondary students interested in co-op opportunities at Isowater Company can find more information here.
The Isowater Corporation is located in a new building on Sandford Fleming Drive in Collingwood.