Background

Invent an Alien has been a side competition of the Manitoba Schools’ Science Symposium for many years. Tina Hellmuth has been in charge of this competition since 2001 and before that Bob Ludwick chaired it. The competition offers students a second avenue to attend the provincial Science Fair. Invent an Alien is more of a design process, having students build a theoretically testable entity that needs to meet the criteria of being a believable biological creature that has some adaptations to live on the harsh climates and conditions of other planets or moons.

Every year a different location in our planetary system is chosen as the Alien’s home. Choice of location is often based on which planet or moon space probes have recently explored. Over the years students have learned about almost all of the planets and many of the larger moons.

It is possible to do Invent an Alien in English or French. All materials are available in both languages. An increasing number of teachers in Immersion programs have entered projects because it allows their students to learn and apply accurate French technical and scientific vocabulary.

Levels of participation:

  • Elementary Level: Grade 4 to 6
  • Grades 7 to 9
  • Grades 10 to 12
    • Students can work alone or with a partner.

    There is no limit to the number of projects a school can send this year. Entry fees are $20.00 for an individual project and $30.00 for a group project. (Cheques made payable to MSSS) Schools are asked to send one cheque from each school to facilitate bookkeeping. Teachers are asked to send an email stating the names of their participants to avoid difficulties related to misspellings on hand-written sheets.

    To participate in the competition, students research the location and then build a biological entity (no robots allowed) that is adapted to live there. For example, if the planet is hot, rocky, and has a really thick atmosphere the alien could be short with thick bones to resist gravitational forces, be rock colored and have a cooling system under his skin to control body temperature. If it is extremely cold, the students need to think of ways that the alien will keep warm. There are no size specifications but most entries are not smaller than 20 centimeters. Students may choose any materials the wish to construct their aliens. Students have built aliens out of paper maché, placticine or recycled materials. The variety is astounding.

    Once the alien is completed, students research the various biological systems. They need to describe where the alien lives on the planet (e.g. in the air, underground, by a volcano, etc.) its physical characteristics, if it lives alone or in a group, its population, its level of intelligence, its diet and digestive system, its means of locomotion, how it breathes and how it reproduces. Invent an Alien can’t be plagiarized or cut copy pasted because the students need to combine different systems together to create their alien’s systems. This information is presented on a science backboard along with a one-page description of the planetary location. Grade 7 to 12 students who enter must have more detail describing the alien’s habitat, its internal and external physical characteristics and the alien’s role in the ecosystem. Their write-ups should be no more than 10 pages in length, including illustrations.

    When the written work is completed, students need to practice their oral presentation. In this presentation they should spend one to three minutes talking about the location, and then spend seven to ten minutes talking about their alien. They should also think of questions the judges could ask and answer them.

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