Canada-Wide Science Festival finalists (left to right) Ellena Schuffert

Bulkley Valley students show national science fair flair

Smithers and Hazelton students showed a flair for science at the 55th Canada-Wide Science Festival, winning $8,000 in scholarships.

Four finalists from Smithers, Hazelton and Prince Rupert presented projects in Montréal May 18-20 at the Canada-Wide Science Festival – the highest level of Science Fair competition in Canada. Pacific Northwest students brought home four awards including gold, silver and bronze medals, the best junior energy project award, and university scholarships worth $8,000!

Brandon Greenall, a Grade 12 student at Hazelton Secondary School, won a bronze medal for his project The Management of Diabetes in Northwest British Columbia that gathered data from the region about social and physical issues faced by diabetics. As a recently diagnosed Type-One diabetic, Greenall plans to use the information to develop an online resource to help people with diabetes to manage their challenges.

“It was an absolute honour to be able to investigate a project that was so close to home, and I hope that my research can help shed light on the current diabetes epidemic in northwest British Columbia,” said Greenall.

Aaliyah Mahboubi, a Grade 7 student at Prince Rupert Middle School, used soil and microbes from bogs to generate power in her gold-medal project Microbial-Film Power Generation. It was Mahboubi’s first national science fair, and although nervous at first, she soon settled in.

“The Canada-Wide Science Festival was the most amazing and inspiring event I have ever experienced in my entire life,” said Mahboubi. “From presenting our projects to dancing in big crowds and visiting the heart of old Montreal, the week just couldn’t get better”.

Ellena Schuffert, a Grade 12 student at Smithers Secondary School, investigated the potential for running aircraft on biofuels with her project Green Aviation = Today’s Engines + Alternative Fuels?.

“My fourth time at Canada-Wide Science Festival was just an amazing experience,” said Schuffert.

As an aspiring astronaut, she was thrilled to hear the inspirational keynote address from celebrity Chris Hadfield, who spoke of the importance of curiosity, breadth and communication in science, told stories about his time in space and performed the song he wrote with the Barenaked Ladies.

“One thing that really struck me was that it is harder to win ‘Best Project’ at Canada-Wide Science Fair than to become an astronaut,” noted Schuffert.

Rachel Cuell, a Grade 9 student at Smithers Secondary School, studied the possible impacts of climate change on lichen communities that grow on pine trees with her project Climate Change: Time to be Enlichened. Cuell’s work earned her a silver medal and interest from the statistics judges. Cuell said that she enjoys meeting scientists from across Canada.

“A highlight for me this year was meeting Jaymie Matthews, an astrophysicist who teaches at UBC. I was especially excited that he offered to set me up with a mentor to help me with my next project on dark matter.”

These innovative projects all showcase our youths’ curiosity and concern for health and the environment.

“I’m always impressed that our students, from small communities without access to fancy lab facilities, excel on the national stage,” commented Karen Price, Coordinator of the Pacific Northwest Regional Science Fair. “These finalists have dedicated themselves to learning and to helping solve important challenges that face us all”.

Joining hundreds of the country’s brightest young scientific minds, Pacific Northwest students presented their projects to judges, school students and the public, attended scientific talks and activities, toured old Montréal and the Montréal Science Centre, networked with other students and scientists, and enjoyed cultural events, dancing, dining, and a river cruise.

Over 1,000 student finalists, delegates and judges participated in the 55th Canada-Wide Science Festival hosted by McGill University and Youth Science Canada.


– Released by Karen Price (Coordinator, Pacific Northwest Regional Science Fair)

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