Thursday, 13 April 2017 08:00

Southwest Alberta regional science fair engages young minds

Written by  J.W. Schnarr
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Gilbert Paterson Middle School Grade 6 student Levi Brouwer and Grade 7 student Bradley Pike take their Tiger Terminators robot project  "Tiger Bot" for a walk at the Lethbridge Regional Science Fair held early in April at the University of Lethbridge. Gilbert Paterson Middle School Grade 6 student Levi Brouwer and Grade 7 student Bradley Pike take their Tiger Terminators robot project  "Tiger Bot" for a walk at the Lethbridge Regional Science Fair held early in April at the University of Lethbridge. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by J.W. Schnarr

Bright young minds took part in the region’s annual science fair and science Olympics at the University of Lethbridge April 1.


The Sci-Fusion: Lethbridge Regional Science Fair is an opportunity for school-age children across much of southern Alberta to take part in an academic, judged event for science projects from Grade 4 to Grade 6, and from Grade 7 to Grade 12.
Students from the latter group will have an opportunity to go to the Canada-wide Science Fair, which takes place in Regina, Sask. in May.
“It’s the largest gathering of young scientists in the country,” said Arlan Schultz, chair of the organizing committee for Sci-Fusion. “It brings together kids from all over Canada.”
With about 74 projects and 100 students involved in the Lethbridge event — up about 20 per cent over previous years — Schultz said people might be surprised at the kind of research about which these young scientists are taking part.
“Most of these kids are working above their grade level,” he said. “The rules are that it needs to fit on a project board, and that it can be in any area of inquiry in science they are interested in.”
Some examples of those projects include how music works, or the physics of bubbles, or hydraulics, robotic arms and bacterial research.
There is also a substantial amount of innovation, creativity and engineering happening
“One young lady had a battery charger built into her shoe so that every time she walked, her shoe would charge a battery,” said Schultz.
Students are categorized by their grade and gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded in each category. There are also special awards handed out for projects that are deemed “best in fair,” or special engineering or plant science awards.
“All in all, we give away about $3,500 to $4,000 every year in cash prizes for students,” said Schultz. “It goes directly to them with no strings attached. They can use it for research, or to fund their education. Whatever they want to do with it.
“It’s a great way for kids to get rewarded for scientific research.”
The focus of the fair is research and presenting that research to the public.
April 1 was public presentation day after the previous night judging to allow young scientists to spend time with the public and show off the work they have been doing.
Saturday afternoon was spent participating in the Science Olympics.
The Science Olympics are an engineering-based event which featured a mystery project the students had never seen, but they then had to conceptualize, design, build and test that project.
“Those are the most hilarious results of the day,” Schultz said.
“It’s a highlight. Last year, they built a replica of the High Level Bridge out of pasta and hot glue.
“They had to build it as high as they could, wide as they could, and hold as much weight as they could.
“When they go through all the tests, the biggest, of course, is the ‘brick test’ to find out how many bricks it will hold. It’s very exciting.”
Parents might not be aware students do not have to be selected at their school science fairs to enter the regional fair. Schultz said parents can get in touch if they would like their child to take part.
“If parents feel like their children would benefit from presenting their project to the public and to a judge directly, they can register directly.
We have a lot of children who come from rural areas, and that’s what they do. This is a way these kids can engage directly with scientists and the public in a way that just isn’t available in any other forum.”
For more information on the Lethbridge Regional Science Fair and Science Olympics, visit the website at: satclethbridge.ca.

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