National STEAM award goes to UVic math student


- Barbara Todd Hager


Tyra Cockney-Goose heard the ping of an incoming email at 5 a.m. one morning in early April 2019. The message was from the Ingenium Foundation in Ottawa, three times zones away. Still half-asleep, Tyra tried to focus on the words on the white screen. “We are pleased to inform you….” it read. When it dawned on her that the email was informing her that she was one of five STEAM Horizon Award winners, which included a $25,000 scholarship, she was instantly awake. 

Sleep—or lack of it—is one thing that Cockney-Goose, a second-year UVic math student, is somewhat of an expert in. Her research project on sleep deprivation won a gold medal at the Beaufort Delta Regional Science Fair in her senior year, and a bronze medal at the Canada-wide Science Fair in Ottawa in 2018.

Her research project had only one subject—herself. Like many teenagers, after doing her homework she would often spend a few hours watching YouTube videos and checking social media sites. “I had a lot of late nights in high school. Once I stayed up 40 hours straight to finish a socials project,” she admits. “I averaged 4-6 hours of sleep a night.”

The impact of technology and late night studying on productivity, alertness and hand-eye coordination was something she wanted to analyze. “Lack of sleep really affects your quality of life,” she discovered while conducting research for the project. “Now I get 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night.”

First Inuit recipient of the award

The STEAM Horizon Award, supported by three national museums and NSERC, among others, honours youth who promote positive changes throughout their communities using science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

Born in Inuvik to Mae Cockney and Louie Goose, Cockney-Goose is the second youngest in a family of six girls and three boys. She became interested in science and math at an early age and considers her mother, a nurse, her main inspiration. “My mother always tells me that my accomplishments are my own and that I should be proud of them.”

When Cockney-Goose was in grade 10, she wrote an article for Tusaayaksat Magazine that included an interview with her father, who grew up in Ulukhaktok, a small Inuit community on Victoria Island. “I look at my situation and sometimes wonder how differently past generations spent their spare time before the invention of smart phones, tablets and computers,” she ponders in the article.

When she asked her father about his thoughts on technology and its impact on traditional Inuit culture, he told her, “technology benefits us and it is something that is going to happen. However, it has to be used wisely so people don’t get too lazy and spoiled.”

Cockney-Goose graduated in 2018 from Inuvik’s East Three Secondary School and was the class valedictorian. Her plan was to take a year off school before starting university. To make her mother happy, she applied to one post-secondary institution: UVic.

“UVic was my only choice,” Cockney-Goose said. “The weather is warm, they have a great Faculty of Science, and I liked that there is a First Peoples House.” Once enrolled, she attended Indigenous gatherings and events at the house, and considers it one of the primary reasons for choosing UVic.

For the second summer in a row, Tyra is back home in Inuvik working for the Inuvaluit Regional Corporation as a climate change and environment policy assistant doing research related to the Beaufort Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment.

She is looking forward to starting her second year of studies at UVic, without having to worry about raising funds to cover the costs. The $25,000 scholarship that comes with the STEAM Horizon Award is funded by the Ingenium Foundation, which also provides support to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Tyra’s long-term goal is to return home after graduating from university to teach math. “I want to be a mentor for young Indigenous youth, especially in the North.”


In this story

Keywords: mathematics, award

People: Tyra Cockney-Goose

Publication: The Ring

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