The Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) has been happening since 1962, and every year around three projects from the Yukon/Stikine Regional Science Fair are chosen to be part of the annual national event. This year, the CWSF took place in Ottawa, where, for the first time, all three student participants from the Yukon won medals.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so I was in shock,” said Kalie Bennet, who attended the CWSF for the first time and was awarded a bronze medal in the junior category for her project, titled “Coloured Overlays: A Dyslexic’s Friend?”
Coordinator and teacher/chaperone Grace Snider, who recently retired from a teaching position at Golden Horn Elementary and has been involved in science and heritage fairs for years, recounts seeing Bennett’s look of surprise as she ran up to the podium to accept her medal.
Bruce Porter, who also won a bronze medal for his project, “South Paw—Examining Paw Preference in Dogs and Connections to Human Handedness” adds, “I was surprised I even made it to the Canada Wide Science Fair!”
While the three students had come from different backgrounds and experiences, one thing they all had in common was that they were not counting on taking home the awards they did. Gavin Howell, who won a gold medal for his project—“A Unique Approach to Test the Effects of Cell Phone Radiation using Yeast Cells”—had not anticipated being called up as a gold medallist.
“At the start of the ceremony, I was just hoping for a bronze medal, so I was crossing my fingers for that,” says Howell. “When that didn’t happen, I was stressed out, but I was happy for them. Then the silvers went by and I was pretty scared, then when the golds came I was shocked. I walked up there before he could even say Yukon/Stikine.”
Of the three Yukon students who attended the CWSF this May, only Howell had been before. The grade eight student participated in last year’s fair, as well, and though Bennett and fellow first-time participant Bruce Porter had never been, Bennett’s older brother had attended the fair, years before, so between his and Gavin’s experience and help, the two younger students, both in grade seven at the time, were able to gain some knowledge of what was in store before heading off to Ottawa.
For each student, participating in the CWSF and the smaller science fairs that led up to it meant months of hard work and dedication. The time and effort they each devoted paid off in the end with the Excellence Awards they now have to their names.
According to Snider, there was also an incredible growth in the connection between the students, and the students all say they were able to form great friendships with fellow participants. The students were able to choose topics for their projects based on what interested, inspired and applied to them, and all have unique reasons for their decisions.
“I really wanted to do my project because of my learning disability,” says Bennett, whose learning disability makes reading an extra challenge for her. “I wanted to see if it could help me, so it was important for me so I could learn.”
For Porter, the science fair started as a requirement for school.
“I thought doing something with my dog would be kind of cool because I do agility and that kind of thing with my dog. I thought that would be pretty fun, and then I got to doing 10 dogs.”
Howell, who had every intention of returning to CWSF, decided to study something that he believes more knowledge on could be useful and beneficial.
“I just was always curious about cell phone radiation and the possibility that it could be a health risk,” he said. “I wanted to spread the word that maybe it is or maybe it isn’t, and put some more research about it out there.”
While participating in the CWSF was a huge commitment for each student, only months later, they are all already thinking about what the future may hold in terms of science fair projects. Future plans at this time include everything from building on this year’s projects with new equipment, to starting an entirely new experiment from scratch. Using what they gained from this experience, the young students will be able to go on to find ways to help the world, while always learning more.