The Trottier Observatory and Science Courtyard as well as the Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education Centre form a seamless partnership between the mission of the Trottier Family Foundation and SFU’s goal to engage with its community. The observatory provides a home for amateur astronomers and students to study the night sky using a powerful .7-metre-diameter reflector telescope. The Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education Centre is a flexible, state-of-the-art learning space dedicated to educational outreach activities for children and youth. It includes video-conferencing abilities, a 3D projector, a food preparation room and an independent chemical preparation room with a fume hood.
Lorne Trottier’s passion for science and technology began when he was 11 years old when he built his first crystal radio. Wanting to understand how this radio worked quickly morphed into an insatiable curiosity to learn about the functioning of the solar system, the universe, and the other findings of modern science. This passion helped to propel him into becoming an electronics engineer and to cofound Matrox, a company making specialized computer graphics and video products. Unsurprizingly, Lorne Trottier passed on his passion for science and astronomy to his younger brother Howard. “My first introduction to science was through my brother Lorne. I looked up to him as a brother and as a mentor.” Dr. Howard Trottier is now a professor of Physics at SFU as well as an amateur astronomer and award-winning astrophotographer.
One of the goals of the Trottier Family Foundation, and Dr. Howard Trottier himself, is science outreach to young people. “When people come to campus and look through our telescopes, I want them to feel the mystery and the excitement of the universe. If I can have that impact on a young person and give them a sense of passion about the natural world, then I think it’s good for them and for society and as an educator, that’s a wonderful experience” says Howard Trottier.
Howard Trottier is deeply involved in science outreach and started the immensely successful Starry Nights at SFU program in 2007. The Starry Nights at SFU program has introduced thousands of children and youth to the beauty of the stars and our universe. “Starry Nights at SFU is not necessarily focused on encouraging kids to study the sciences, but more importantly I want to encourage them to appreciate the importance of science to society, and to be engaged in the world and have a passion for something – whether it be in science, technology, or the humanities.”
This passion for learning was ingrained by the Trottier parents, who were determined that their four sons would be given a university education, something neither parent had the luxury to pursue. While it wasn’t easy putting four children through university, it was a priority that never flagged and fostered spirited dinnertime conversations about the natural and the political world. Besides Howard and Lorne, brother Elliot is an actuary while brother Marc is a retired child-care worker. Howard’s twenty-something son Alexandre is carrying on the family tradition of pursuing higher education, and is a technology geek very much in the model of his uncle Lorne.
Through the Trottier Foundation the brothers hope to grow their science outreach, among young people in particular, to help others develop and pursue a passion for the field.