TELUS Spark Calgary's Science Centre

2018 Annual Report


Spark brings people together to learn, play and create with science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).


Visitors and the community are transformed by a culture of curiosity, risk-taking and problem solving.


Collaboration: Spark encourages debate and dialogue, embracing diverse perspectives. Partnerships result in better ideas and outcomes.

Curiosity: Spark inspires people to always be wondering, always questioning, always seeking to learn.

Courage: Spark supports innovative thinking and taking risks. Spark embraces change. Our courage to fail gives us the confidence to succeed.

Commitment: Spark is deeply passionate about its mission and pursues it in everything we do, and in how we do it.

Notable highlights in 2018:

  • Launched the Science of Mental Health for Grades K-12
  • Provided transportation and educational opportunities to more than 3,000 at-promise students
  • Canoo (formerly known as Cultural Access Program) provided access to 3,591 new Canadians
  • Community Access program of 48 partners representing a cross-section of social needs brought more than 12,500 visitor to Spark
  • Spark volunteers contributed 18,000 hours
  • More than 72,500 students and teachers participated in various workshops, semester long prototype projects and one-week science intensives
  • More than 1,600 youth took part in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) experiences
  • Spark completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the City of Calgary's  Climate Change Education Plan
  • Partnered with the City of Calgary to launch the first Autonomous Vehicle available to the public with a ridership of over 4,500 guests over 22 days of operation
  • Received two Calgary's Child awards and an honourable mention, Winner "Best Museum for Families," Winner "Best Place to Take Your Kids on a Crummy Day," Honourable Mention "City of Calgary Tourist/ Family Attraction" 
  • Best of Calgary's finalist for "Best Family Entertainment Spot" 
  • Celebrating the combination of engineering and art, Spark brought in two art installations, Albertosaurus by Russell Zied and Sundial by Robert Oldrich, a City of Calgary's Civic Art Collection piece
  • Balanced the budget with a surplus of $97,529
  • Held a cannabis event on August 6 bringing in more than 1,900 guests to educate Calgarians on the future of society and the legalization of cannabis
  • Won the Guinness World Record for the largest functioning Rubik's Cube 
  • Partnered with the City of Calgary's Climate Change Symposium to host Katherine Hayhoe and George Marshall 
  • 2019 Cascades Award Finalist for Junkyard Playground
  • Participated in the Inaugural Calgary Play Summit 

In early 2018, it became apparent that trend of lower than expected general paid attendance would prevail throughout the year. Spark established a risk register to assess the impact of the lower general paid attendance on other revenue streams that we depend on to sustain our business. This allowed us to alter planned expenditures to account for the lower revenues, which ended the year in a surplus of $97,529.

A bright spot to 2018 is a record number of membership sales. This showed the deep affinity for inspiration and education among Calgarians during an economic downturn. This has led to analysis of and changes to the value proposition for both regular and new attendees. We are excited about future prosperity based on the adjustments we are making.

Ensuring Spark visitors leave feeling recharged after each visit, Spark reorganized the fee structure to include unlimited Dome Movies in admission fees, brought in Whales|Tohorā from New Zealand's National Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, housing the largest whale collection, offered unique and temporary exhibits to spark more conversations about climate change and renewable energy sources, continued to foster community relationships government partners and gained a world win from the Guinness World Records for building the largest Rubik's Cube.

Inspiring Neighbourhoods 

Spark believes in access and inclusion for all and continues to be a critical component of a Prosperous City.

In 2018, the Community Connections program consisted of 48 community partners representing a large cross-section of social service agencies across Calgary. The utilization of the program resulted in more than 12,724 visits from individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity to access the world of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) at Spark.

In 2018, Spark continued to work closely with the CBE, CCSD and Siksika school boards to provide transportation and educational opportunities to more than 3,000 at-promise students during the school year. The program culminates with a Family Science Night where all participating students, their families and teachers come to Spark for a free private function where students can share their learning experiences and a meal with their families. In 2018 over 1,550 students and their families attended this event.

Camperships initiative provided free day-camp spots to children in the community who would not otherwise have the ability to participate in day camps. In 2018, 20 campers came to Spark to participate in Spark’s popular Summer Camps through this initiative.

Finally, TELUS Spark is part of the Canoo (formally known as Cultural Access pass) program that provides admission to new Canadians. In 2018, more than 3,591 new Canadians were able to come and enjoy Spark.

Spark’s unique school programs bring together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) in ways that are transformative for youth. For example, 600 students attended the Prototype Project, a semester-long program that develops critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills with experiential learning that prepares students for the real world. Another 684 students attended Chevron Open Minds Science School at Spark. Open Minds is a week-long experience that provides students with the opportunity to explore, experience and develop skills which helps them grow. This journey helps students to develop a passion for science and discover the areas that excite them. In addition, there were 1510 school workshop bookings, 72 demo bookings, and 1186 students watched a live-stream of a knee surgery through Spark’s program Direct From the Operating Room.

In 2018, Spark launched ‘Science of Mental Health’ for Grades K-12. This new workshop delves into mental health and its connections with the brain, heart and neurosystem while debunking the historic stigma associated with mental illness. Using emerging innovative technologies, students engage in hands-on activities to recognize the relationship between mental health and physical health to monitor and manage their well-being beyond the classroom.

A Healthy Green City

As a LEED Gold building, Spark is committed to creating a space to spark conversations around clean energy technologies, sustainable living and sustainable energy systems in Alberta. This destination is an inspiring hub for conversations around reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency and intend to continue encouraging our guests, members, sponsors and donors to find opportunities to foster healthy lifestyles that optimize a healthy green city.

Special 2018 initiatives include:

  • Partnered with the City of Calgary’s Climate Change Symposium to host two world renowned climate communicators, Katherine Hayhoe and George Marshall as an extension of climate change conversations.
  • Designed and showcased exhibits and temporary technology displays related to critical and relevant energy topics to Albertans generating family conversations around energy transitions.
  • Collaborated with the City of Calgary and other community partners to become the first location to pilot the launch of ELA, Canada’s first Electric Autonomous Shuttle Bus available to the public.
  • Funded as part of the Community Environment Action grant from the Government of Alberta, Spark launched Rethink Your Street, a permanent future-focused exhibit on local transportation. This exhibit was designed to spark conversations around how people’s movements affect our city and challenges visitors to design and consider their own modes of transportation and how it impacts the environment.
  • Designed and showcased a “made-in-Alberta” display featuring fibre optics as one of the technologies that can identify leakages in pipelines.
  • Celebrated our rooftop solar panel installation during Green Great Britain Week with a visit from the British Consulate - General, Calgary to emphasize the importance of clean economic growth. The environmental benefits of these panels resulted in over 57,000 kg of CO2 emissions saved, which is the equivalent of 190.84 trees planted.
  • Completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the City of Calgary’s Climate Change Education Plan. This comprehensive education plan will chart a path to inform, educate and mobilize Calgarians in to climate education and will be included in Calgary’s Climate plan. This project could constitute an important tool for engaging Calgarians about climate action. 
  • We are committed to continue our work on green energy and alternative energy sources and have been working with ENMAX to develop a solar energy battery display in 2019.

Spark is one of the key partners of the Alberta Narratives Project (ANP). ANP is a public engagement that builds skills and better communications to talk about climate change and the oil and gas industry in non-polarized ways while reflecting on shared values and identities of Albertans.

We intend to continue to build strong relationships with strategically-aligned community partners in the community like ANP and including, but not limited to Energy Disruptors, Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), Energy Efficiency Alberta, ENMAX, HiFi-Engineering, Infrastructure Mapping and Autonomy, Let’s Talk Energy, NovAtel,Pembina Institute, and Pacific Western Transportation as an extension to create more awareness and education around healthy lifestyles and a healthy green city in Alberta.

A Prosperous City

Spark was part of Canada's first Electronic Autonomous Vehicle available to the public.

In partnership with the City of Calgary, Spark supported the initiative to become the first location to pilot the launch of ELA, Canada’s first Electric Autonomous Shuttle Bus available to the public. ELA was a month-long initiative beginning on September 30, 2018 running between the Calgary Zoo and Spark. Spark prepared a temporary exhibit featuring a number of autonomous vehicle technologies to inspire and imagine the future of transportation advocating for more education about the autonomous vehicle industry. The City of Calgary and Spark hosted tours with school groups, a post-secondary urban planning class, the Municipal Innovation Conference and robotic classes. Over the 22 days of operation, ELA had a ridership of 4,500 people.

The key piece of technology that allowed ELA to operate was built in Calgary by NovAtel. NovAtel and Infrastructure Mapping & Autonomy sponsored an temporary technology display at Spark, which allowed Calgary to be viewed as a prominent tech-hub and leading voice in the future of transportation. A New York technology magazine flew out to do a story on NovAtel and the trial of ELA.

Enough for All Poverty Reduction Strategy 

Access Programs

Spark experiences are accessible to the members of our community who are most in need. Financial hardship should not be a barrier for future innovators to explore educational opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). The Access Program presented by Crescent Point Energy supports students, families and individuals requiring additional financial assistance in order to access TELUS Spark. Via our community partnerships, Spark was able to reach thousands of families, students and individuals and provide them with unique, free-of-charge, hands-on educational experiences. Within the Access Program there are four different initiatives:

1. Community Connections

The Community Connections Program allows the science centre to partner with local social service agencies and non-profit organizations, providing access to those who may not otherwise be able to visit. By forming longer-term partnerships with other organizations in the community, TELUS Spark is moving closer to achieving our vision of a community transformed by a culture of curiosity, risk-taking and problem-solving. Our mission to be a force for innovation that drives positive change is the cornerstone of this program.

By partnering with local agencies and organizations, we strive to:

  • Offer an introduction to a unique recreational and educational community resource
  • Offer learning opportunities for people of all ages
  • Inspire visitors to seek other learning opportunities based on their experiences at Spark
  • Fuel the drive to explore educational opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM)
  • Provide access to more people in our community who are typically without the means to fully participate

As a not-for-profit organization ourselves, please keep in mind that we can only consider requests that have a strong connection to our Mission and Vision. Further, we receive a very high volume of applications and, as such, we are not able to support the following:

  • Religious organizations (except where they represent non-denominational support services)
  • Individuals
  • Fully funded Government agencies
  • Projects or organizations that are not located within and do not provide a service to Southern Alberta
  • Competitive sports teams
  • Political parties
  • Advocacy or special interest groups
  • Schools or parent association

2. Learning Connections

Learning Connections provides subsidized school programs for students from under-served schools throughout Calgary. The field trips include a school program and bus transportation. Participating schools are identified by the Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District and the Siksika Board of Education. To celebrate the students’ learning journey at the end of the school year, participants and their families are invited to a private Family Science Night at TELUS Spark.

3. Summer Campership

Camperships provide free access to children in the community to attend a week of TELUS Spark Summer camps. Participants are selected in collaboration with our Community Connections agencies. Camperships provide participants with the opportunity to experience a week of STEAM-filled activities at no cost, plus a Camps t-shirt.

4. Canoo (formally known as Cultural Access Pass)

This program is delivered in collaboration with the Institute of Canadian Citizenship. Every new Canadian is eligible to receive a Canoo for a year from the date they received their citizenship. The program provides pass holders and their families free access to different attractions and parks within the country. TELUS Spark is one of the participant attractions.

Calgary in the New Economy

As a leading voice for innovation, Spark developed three displays in 2018 to highlight advancements in technology. Spark is home to leading talent in developing innovative and accessible exhibits driven by the technological advances and adaptation to build a better city.

Autonomous Technologies

Spark partnered with Pacific Western Transportation, the City of Calgary and the Federal Government with sponsorships from NovAtel and Infrastructure Mapping and Technologies to design a representation of how driverless autonomous systems work and how the future of autonomous vehicles as an everyday mode of transportation can educate on renewable energy sources. The display featured two different pieces of technology, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System). LiDAR technology uses light to create a 3D map of the car’s natural and man-made environments in real-time aiding the driverless vehicle to avoid obstacles and pedestrians. Guests were also able to view the GNSS technology (a more accurate version of GPS for navigation and positioning). These two technologies are essential to guiding the pathway of autonomous vehicles. (See photo below)


Spark designed a technology display to showcase the different components that make up a GNSS unit which included a user interface console, high precision GNSS sensor, communications interface card and an inertial measurement unit. This display encouraged guests to further explore the potential of autonomous vehicles and its technologies. (See photo below)

The oil and gas industry is prudent to the success of Alberta’s economic growth. Sponsored by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) and Hifi Engineering, Spark built an exhibit to demonstrate how fibre optics can identify and detect leaks in a pipeline. This exhibit fostered conversations around responsible energy transitions and showcased how “high-fidelity dynamic sensing” (HDS) can detect extremely low flow and pinhole sized leaks in pipelines.

Cultural Plan for Calgary

Spark is proud to bring Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) to Calgary.

Spark aims to contribute to the energetic vibrancy the city offers by partnering with various communities and organizations to make Calgary an exceptional place to live. Special initiatives include:

  • Partnered with Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand to bring Whales|Tohora to Calgary. Whales|Tohora is a unique and exclusive cultural travelling exhibition featuring education on conservation of oceans, whale species and other marine animals.
  • Supported the grand opening weekend of the new Central Public Library to elevate the cultural identity of Calgarians and attracting an estimated 20,000 visitors. We engaged guests by developing elevated science experiments for kids of all ages.
  • Participated in Truckstop Circus and Happenings! in partnership with Arts Commons to activate Olympic Plaza during the summertime.
  • Supported science affinity within the community for people of all ages by bringing a customized science program to Beakerhead.

Open Spaces Plan

Junkyard Playground

Operation Explore, Spark’s summer program, took a whole new look at risky play. The theme for the summer program was “Kids take the lead” and Calgary’s first Junkyard Playground was conceived. The Junkyard Playground was a designated area of the Brainasium where kids were able to play with their parents close-by, but not directly with them. The Junkyard Playground is a space that allows kids to play the way they know best - with lots of fun, endless possibilities and a teaspoon of risk. The play space is like a real-life Minecraft, it’s a world that’s entirely kid created, resistant to the influence of well-meaning parents or guardians. Kids can build and take things apart using real tools like hammers and saws, all while exploring their limitless imaginations.

Junkyard Playground nominated for a CASCADE award for Best Program - Large Institution.CASCADE Awards are presented by CASC (Canadian Association of Science Centres) to recognize outstanding people, programs and exhibits in Canada’s science centres, museums, aquariums, planetariums and makerspaces. The category of Best Program is awarded for the best onsite or outreach educational, interpretative, or public program of a CASC member. We are one of four finalists in this category.

2018 Financial Statements