This year’s Canada-Wide Science Fair took place in Windsor, Ontario from May 10 to 17, and representing the Yukon were three Grade 8 students with a zest for innovative science.

Sophia Ross, KC Mooney, and Isabel Magsucang were selected as finalists to compete in the fair.

Competition from the rest of Canada was stiff — more than 500 students were registered in the competition. The three Yukon girls came up with interesting experiments, although Ontario and Quebec took the top three spots. 

Ross researched the science behind distracted drivers and cell phone usage through her project, Hands-Free Distraction.

“I wanted to test this in particular because hands-free cell phones claim to be an alternative to the distraction of talking on a regular phone and driving,” Ross says.

“I discovered that talking on a hands-free cell phone while driving causes approximately 15 per cent distraction. In most cases, 15 per cent would be deemed not substantial. But, in my opinion, with something as dangerous as driving, where every accident can be crucial, 15 per cent is a big deal.”

Although the future of cell phones and science are uncertain, Ross has a final thought:

“I could hypothesize that cell phones could change the way we drive and the way we think. It would be very interesting to know how future cell phones will evolve around driving as well.”

Competing in the Canada-Wide Science Fair was a very enlightening experience for Ross. She had two favorite projects. One was Sustainable Smart Sanitizer, where a garbage can was created to sanitize and deodorize itself using a natural chemical called o-zone. The chemical is unscented, so it kills bacteria without attracting animals.

The other project was about computer software that scans social media networks, looking for cyber bullying. The inventor manually entered popular bullying phrases like: “go kill yourself” and “you’re ugly.”  

The software scanned sites for these phrases. Alerts are then sent to the users of the sites where the bully-like phrases originated.

Isabel Magsucang’s project was called, Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) Efficiency.

“I was born curious about the world and how things work,” she says. “Heat recovery ventilation appealed to me because it’s applicable to our everyday lives.” 

Magsucang says another purpose of her project was to educate about the importance of the quality of air and HRVs.  

The science enthusiast admits to being surprised by her experiment results.

“I initially thought that supplying fresh air would reduce the probability of mold growth. However, I found out that providing more oxygen can lead to more mold.”

This year was Magsucang’s second time participating in the fair.

“When I found out that I was chosen to move on to the national level I was thrilled,” she says. “I knew from previous experience that the Canada-Wide Science Fair is a great learning opportunity to connect with other young scientists from across the country. I was very eager to meet new people, see all my friends from the year before and to discover other innovative projects. To represent the Yukon in such a prestigious academic competition is an honour.”

KC Mooney’s entered with her project, “Do Smells Effect Memory?”

“The purpose of my project was to try and help people who have a hard time remembering things,” she says.

Her experiment involved 26 people at the Yukon College. The participants had to test their short-term recollection skills by remembering a sequence of six colours. The participants were tested with and without the scents of peppermint, rosemary, or lemon.

The results of Mooney’s experiment proved fascinating.

 “The preferred scents of peppermint and lemon improved participants’ ability to recall a sequence of six colors, even after being distracted by a simple math question. This improvement was seen most strongly in the 50 to 59-year age range,” Mooney says.

This is Mooney’s second time attending the science fair, too. Last year she won the $1000 Western University entrance scholarship, and the $100 junior bronze medal award.

Although Mooney enjoys conducting science experiments, she is not entirely sure if she will compete again.

“Last year I said I was done with science fairs, because it is a lot of work. But, after going to the CWSF again and meeting more people from around Canada, I came home and starting thinking of new ideas for projects.”