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Filip Miscevic, a Grade 11 student at Northern Secondary School, was one of the winners.

Your cellphone is your lifeline. So isn't it time you celebrated the technology that makes it work? Or the people who develop life-saving medical techniques. Wouldn't it be cool to meet them in person?

Science Rendezvous, a science festival taking place in regions across Ontario Saturday, invites the public to commune with top minds and explore the science behind what makes our modern lives function. It's as much of a party and meet-and-greet as it is an educational event, aiming to transform the public from "passive supporters" of science and technology to "active and passionate champions," its organizers say.

Here in Toronto, research institutions such as the Mars Discovery District and universities like U of T, York and Ryerson will fling open their doors and put scientists face to face with the public and discover neat experiments. People can even successfully walk on water (a solution of corn starch and water) at the St. George street fair - but only if they truly believe in the power of science, says chair of Science Rendezvous Dwayne Miller.

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"If you hesitate, you'll be sunk," says the professor and director of the Institute for Optical Science at U of T.

But in all seriousness, the event is very much about reversing the quickly declining science literacy rates among Canadians, he says.

"It's important for people to see that science isn't done by social misfits and geeks, that people love what they're doing and they're passionate about it," he says. "I think we'll see the next generation of researchers blossom and who knows where they'll go?"

He plans to take the project nationwide next year. Another effort they plan to take across the country is an essay contest organized by the University of Toronto's chemistry department, called Ask a Laureate; Lunch with a Laureate, which will join the high-school scribes with Nobel winners for a day.

For a listing of events go to: http://www.sciencerendezvous.ca/program/

About 30 essay-contest winners travelled to the University of Toronto Friday in a pilot-project version of the event.

Here are four dispatches from Toronto high-school student winners, who left the day of lectures and chemistry demos and lunch jazzed up about science.

Melanie Massey, 17, Grade 12 student at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute

Science Roots:

"I wasn't really interested in science until I got to high school. I think growing up, especially being a girl, there wasn't anything that really stood out to me." But then, Melanie took a technology course from a female science teacher at the school who had a very hands-on approach. Interested in how science can help people, Melanie has volunteered at Bridgepoint Health centre and is president of the Danforth Civics Association at her school that helps raise awareness about social issues.

The Winning Essay:

Melanie wrote about Toronto chemist Leone Farrell, who helped create the polio vaccine. She died in relative obscurity and is buried in an unmarked grave at High Park.

Future Plans:

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Studying life sciences at McGill University in Montreal in September.

D'Arcy Prendergast, 16, Grade 11 at Northern Secondary School

Science Roots:

Always a fan of both English and science, D'Arcy jumped at the chance to combine his two loves in this essay contest.

The Winning Essay:

"I wrote about the history of our knowledge of the atom and its existence and the application of that knowledge," he says. "It took me a lot of time condensing it. It was 500 words and I found it hard to convey the entire history."

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Future Plans:

Already mulling post-secondary options, D'Arcy took advantage of the one-on-one time with professors at U of T Friday to help him plot his strategy. "I plan to pursue a career in science, I don't know what yet. Chemistry, especially after today, is looking like a really amazing option."

Syed Hasan, 17, Grade 12 student at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute

Science Roots:

"I've always been interested in biology and chemistry," he says, adding that it's important to understand both because they work in tandem.

The Winning Essay:

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He, too, wrote about the evidence that atoms exist. "When this competition came to me, we were sort of on the topic in our class. It was kind of interesting and I thought 'Hey, maybe I should just do this for fun.' "

Future Plans:

"I've been accepted to U of T, McMaster and Western, all in life sciences," the top student says. "I'm probably going to go to U of T."

Filip Miscevic, 16, Grade 11 student at Northern Secondary School

Science Roots:

"I do have a very strong interest in biology," he says, adding that he's also fascinated by the ways chemistry interconnects with other scientific disciplines. "What interested me was the process of inquiry and investigation that a chemist might be involved in that could be applicable to other areas of science."

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The Winning Essay:

A biographical sketch of influential Canadian chemist John Polanyi. "His discoveries and inquiry have led to the development of chemical and vibrational lasers," he says. "They're the most capable lasers we have on the planet."

Future Plans:

Along with plans to join a jazz choir, Filip is thinking about applying to university. "I'd like to pursue some kind of medical science, research and development," he says.

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