Young bright minds from across the southwest showcased a diverse range of projects at the regional science fair for Grade 7-12 students in Swift Current.
The 2020 Saskatchewan Chinook Regional Science Fair took place at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, March 10-11.
Dawn Caswell-Falk, a member of the regional science fair committee, said there were 116 participants with 72 projects, which was an increase of about 20 students and 12 projects over last year.
Nine schools from the region, eight from Chinook School Division and one from Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, were represented at the fair.
“That would be fairly typical, but it’s not always the same eight to 10 schools that come, and we do often get projects from outside of our school division as well,” she said.
This is one of 11 regional science fairs in the province that aims to promote an interest in science among youth.
“Science teachers generally take on the role of doing this,” she said. “We do this under the umbrella of science, but the projects will range from anything from engineering to math to technology to even artistic things. Science is everywhere.”
Students will take months to research their projects and prepare their displays. She felt the science fair has cross-curricular benefits. Students have to do research, analyze and extract data from experiments, and sometimes they create new things.
“You can delve into historical and geographical areas to get the social curricula as well, and there’s always math,” she said. “Anything with statistics and analytics is your math components as well.”
There is also the communication portion of their projects that will help students to develop different skills. They must be able to present what they know in a way that others can understand, and their displays must attract attention and provide a sufficient amount of information.
Caswell-Falk, who is the vice-principal at Fairview School in Swift Current, makes it mandatory for students in her classrooms to do a science fair project and there is also a local science fair at the school.
“There’s varying levels of interest and investment in what they’re doing,” she said. “The ones that really invest well, spend the time and the effort to make their display boards look amazing to show what they want to show, to increase their expertise on that, are the ones that are going to end up here.”
Parth Shah, a Grade 11 student at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, placed first overall at the Chinook Regional Science Fair for his project to use artificial intelligence technology to diagnose arthritis in a person based on their gait.
“Gait is basically taking a measurement of how someone walks and arthritis is degeneration of cartilage within bone tissue,” he said. “So I thought why not combine what doctors were doing in healthcare and combine it in the field of biomechanics.”
He developed a mobile app that can be used to collect gait samples from different individuals and he also created a program to analyze the data.
“I took gait samples from various individuals in my school as well as in my neighbourhood, and I ended up with about 100 different participants that I could sample,” he said.
The participants simply downloaded the app onto their smartphones, and then started walking after the app was activated. The app collected data about their gait, which was transmitted wirelessly to Shah for analysis.
He has twice been a gold medal winner at the Chinook Regional Science Fair and he attended the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2017 and 2019. He already started working on his current project after returning from last year’s national science fair in May. He plans to continue with this project, because he needs more sample data to scientifically establish a correlation between gait and arthritis.
“I'm going to be in touch with hospitals and see if I can be exposed to populations who are more prone to having arthritis,” he said. “So I need more information. It's not over. This is a work in progress.”
Cadence Anderson and Andra Todd, both Grade 9 students at Hazlet School, finished second overall at the Chinook Regional Science Fair and also won a special award, the Ted Rodgers Innovation Award, for their project Good Vibrations.
“Basically we have developed a sensor so that blind people don't have to use a white cane or a service dog,” Anderson explained.
Their idea is motivated by a desire to help people through the use of technology. They created a sensor prototype that will vibrate if a person is about four feet away from an object. Their intention is to make further improvements to the sensor.
“We're going to add infrared sensors so that it can sense people better, because right now these ultrasonic sensors send off a signal and reflects off an object and then brings it back to this one,” Todd said. “Sometimes people absorb that signal. So if you have infrared ones, then you will sense people better.”
A large variety of interesting projects were displayed at the Chinook Regional Science Fair that reflected the diverse interests of students.
Fairview School Grade 7 students Casey Brandt and Violet Saretsky did a project to find out why llamas will spit.
“We decided on this project because Violet has a big interest in llamas and I didn't know much about them, and I would like to learn more,” Brandt said. “We learned that llamas spit for a number of reasons. They spit because they're scared and they could have been mistreated before and they don't trust many people.”
They agreed it was a good experience to participate in the science fair. They learn social skills, because they learn how to respond when people ask them questions about their project.
Herbert School Grade 7 student Nicole Oram did research on dogs and created recipes for dog treats that contain ingredients that are safe for canines.
“My challenge was mostly finding the facts and making sure they were real and making the recipes that are for dogs,” she said. “I found the recipes off the internet, but I tried to make them more safe for dogs by taking away things that I knew were bad for dogs and replacing them with better things.”
She tested the recipes by feeding it to her own dog to evaluate his reaction, and he was crazy for it.
Full details about all the winners from the 2020 Chinook Regional Science Fair are provided below.
Best in Fair winners: 1st Parth Shah, SCCHS - Mind the Gait: Deciphering Gait Patterns with AI Powered Machine Learning; 2nd and Ted Rogers Innovation Award, Andra Todd & Cadence Anderson, Hazlet – Good Vibrations; 3rd Vaishu Venkata, All Saints – Removing Oil from Water; 4th Dylan Hogg & Levin Wiebe, Stewart Valley – Floating Future.
Medal winners, Junior Gold (Gr 7/8): Vaishu Venkata, All Saints – Removing Oil from Water (All Saints); Mya Leibel & Brooklyn Siemens, All Saints – Magic Sand; Braden Baumann, Hazlet – Does Temperature Affect Sleep?
Medal winners, Junior Silver: Levin Wiebe & Dylan Hogg, Stewart Valley – Floating Future; Hunter Stock & Nathan Wiseman, Hazlet – Antler Trap.
Medal winners, Junior Bronze: Elyza Gonzales, All Saints – Splitting Water into Hydrogen and Oxygen; Dani Meyer & Rachel Noble, Fairview – Water You Doing?; Nafy Eticha, All Saints – Distillation and Filtration; Sophie Carlson & Olami Akinfiresoye, All Saints – Coke and Chlorine; Brenna Silzer & Shaelyn Feicht, Fairview – Warming Ice Breaking News.
Medal winners, Intermediate Gold (Gr 9/10): Andra Todd & Cadence Anderson, Hazlet – Good Vibrations.
Medal winners, Intermediate Silver: Hollyn Rempel, Success – Squeaky Clean.
Medal winners, Senior Gold (Gr 11/12): Parth Shah, SCCHS – Mind the Gait: Deciphering Gait Patterns with AI Powered Machine Learning.
Medal winners, Senior Silver: Cole Sletten & Davin Garvin, Hazlet – Refaced Waste.
Medal winners, Senior Bronze: Jordan Anderson & Jaden Todd, Hazlet – Muscles.
Science Olympics, Spaghetti/Newspaper/Bridge Structure: 1st Riley Starkey, Sean Friesen, Keira Walters (Fairview and Ponteix), 2nd Gabby Raynard, Elaina Sauder, Samara Moffitt, Cydny Price (Fairview), 3rd Tia Noble, Reziel Egoc, Sharmaine Palaganas, Karlee Keith (Ponteix).
Science Puzzles – Levin Wiebe (Stewart Valley), Emelia Lilja (Fairview), Krysten Gardner (All Saints), Kaleb McBurney (All Saints), Nalani Chan (All Saints), MacKenna Nerada (Success), Erika Olson (Stewart Valley), Maddex Gording Duvall (All Saints).