Carson Graham student Romina Mahinpei (right) readies for North
Vancouver’s first Teen Nerd Nite this Sunday alongside Mary England,
North Shore Nerd Nite founder Crystal Baldwin, Sogand Golshahian and
Parichehr Haghani. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News
by Jeremy Shepherd, North Shore News
It’s about changing the way we see science, ourselves, and in some cases, the way we literally see the world.
As Carson Graham student Romina Mahinpei organizes the North Shore’s
first Nerd Nite for teens, she wants to impart a simple message: you
can be smart and dedicated, you don’t have to be an obsessed visionary.
“The people who are in the world of STEM are not geniuses,” she
says. “That limitation of, ‘I’m not smart enough,’ or ‘I’m not good
enough’ . . . just prevents a large group of people from giving the
field even a try.”
With Teen Nerd Nite, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, Mahinpei is
trying to change the perception about what can be done in the field
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – as well as who
belongs in that field to begin with.
“It’s a great way to just find out if you are interested in STEM,”
she says. “It’s just a matter of taking that time to look into these
opportunities and not giving up until you find your passion.”
But while Mahinpei is dedicated to levelling the playing field at
the event, part of speaker Kurtis Baute’s mission is to round out
people’s perceptions of the Earth.
As a full-time YouTuber, Baute spends a fair bit of mental energy
combating the surprisingly resilient flat Earth community. He’s being
literal when he talks about wanting to change the way people see the
“There is a general mistrust in science that is happening globally,”
he notes. “I honestly think that flat Earth [movement] grew out of
A two-hour video that purports to offer 200 proofs the Earth is not a spinning ball has 890,528 views.
Baute estimates around 10 per cent of the population believe the shape of the planet is more pizza than meatball.
“Which sounds unbelievably high,” he acknowledges. “If you talk to a
flat Earther . . . they’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe it’s only 10 per
In an attempt to shed some light on the flat Earth community, Baute
pedaled to Saskatchewan and set up two sundials: one in Regina and the
other about 140 kilometres straight down Highway 33 in Stoughton.
Even amid geography that looks like it’s been through a panini
press, Baute recorded two shadows of different lengths. The video, which
recreates an experiment first conducted by Greek polymath Eratosthenes
2,200 years ago, has been viewed more than three million times.
As one of six speakers set to make short presentations at Teen Nerd
Nite, Baute is devoted to changing both literal and metaphorical
“When I found science in university it blew my mind and it changed my life and it changed the way I see the world,” he says.
Before finding his online career in 2018, Baute had been teaching science at BrainBoost in Kitsilano.
In many ways, the work is similar, only instead of teaching science, he’s performing it.
Recently, he set up dominos across a warehouse floor to illustrate
the history of the universe (spoiler alert: humans show up at the end).
In 2018, he locked himself in an airtight dome with a few hundred
He stayed inside for about 15 hours but more importantly, he says,
he got people to pay attention to the fragile nature of the atmosphere.
“In order to do the project safely I needed to learn even more about
climate change and more about how we interact with the air we breathe,”
Besides using circular logic on flat earthers, Kurtis Baute is also
known for spending 15 hours in an airtight dome in a bid to call
attention to the climate crisis.
He gets thousands of comments on his videos. Some, he adds, are not very encouraging.
“By in large, they’re very positive,” he adds. “I feel like I’m at least reaching some people.”
Reaching people has been essential for Alison Muller. While earning
her PhD in Alberta she went from hospital room to hospital room asking
for heart and bone marrow tissue from patients undergoing open heart
“I was talking to patients within hours of their surgery,” she recalls.
In dealing with more than 500 patients, Muller estimates she had a 95 per cent success rate.
While she’s encountered many falsehoods about stem cells – ranging
from cure-all transplants to a particular South Park episode – Muller
found that when she could talk to patients one-on-one or with their
families, most patients understood and came to think of the donation of
waste tissue as a form of “paying it forward.”
Those donations were critical in allowing Muller to study how healthy cells responded in a diseased area of the heart.
“If you’re putting new cells, especially stem cells, into a hostile
environment, it makes it very hard for them to do their job
effectively,” she explains.
Her research largely revolved around “tricking the cells into not seeing the damaged environment,” she says.
In a broad context, Muller works on “combining humans with technology” to facilitate the body’s natural healing ability.
While she doesn’t plan to dive into the specifics of her work at
Teen Nerd Nite, Muller says she may touch on subjects of tissue
engineering and 3D printing living tissue.
“I really like talking about science and making it accessible,” she says.
With a background in tissue engineering, Alison Muller works at the
intersection of health and technology.
For Mahinpei, Sunday’s event is also about paying it forward.
Mahinpei was in Grade 4 when she and her family moved to North
Vancouver from Iran. Shortly afterwards, Mahinpei remembers
participating in programs at North Vancouver City Library. The free
programs were a perfect fit, she remembers.
“As an immigrant family cost is always a big issue,” she says.
Last fall, Mahinpei helped organize a Quantum Leaps Conference to
encourage young woman to pursue STEM and she started chatting with
Crystal Baldwin – the host and founder of Nerd Nite North Vancouver –
and they immediately started planning a crossover event.
As she prepares to head off to university to study math and computer
science, Mahinpei recognizes that her life was shaped by those
“That’s when I discovered my passion for STEM so I wanted to make
sure that other children had it available to them too,” she says. “The
cycle needs to continue.”
The event begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Eagles Club at 170 West Third
St. in the City of North Vancouver. To learn more or for tickets click here.