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2017 Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair

Laurentian SETAC once again attended and sponsored the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair. This year’s projects were some of the best yet seen by special awards judges, with Oana Birceanu, Sunny Choi and Scott Hepditch in attendance for L-SETAC. Our judges were tasked with evaluating projects related to environmental toxicology, chemistry, pollution, contamination, remediation or environmental protection. Our three judges examined numerous posters to determine the most suitable candidates for the awards, assessed the projects based on a judging criteria score, and then reconvened to determine the winners. There were many exemplary projects by students from the grade 7 to the grade 12 level, but the two decided winners for this year’s L-SETAC award were: Olivia DiPaolo, from John William South Public School (junior 7/8 level), and Madeline Welch, from Hillfield Strathallan College (intermediate 9/10 level). Olivia’s project was titled “Cottage Lake Pollution: The Human Effects”. This project’s goal was to educate cottage owners within the province of Ontario about sources of anthropogenic lake pollution and how to reduce their own impact on the environment. The project was based on questionnaires to assess the understanding of cottage owners about their impacts to their surrounding lakes, and whether they would be interested in having access to educational tools to help them reduce their “eco-footprint”. Olivia made impressive, visually appealing and very informative pamphlets to provide information about lake pollution and how to conduct simple tests for cottage owners. This project demonstrated an exceptional use of public education to reduce anthropogenic disturbance within the ecosystems of Ontario, with the potential to provide environmental education at the national level. At this year’s BASEF, Olivia was also the recipient of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Product Development Business Process Award, Conservation Halton Environmental Sciences Award and the Bronze Merit Award. Well done, Olivia! Madeline’s project was entitled “Growing a Brownfield Solution: The Phytoremediation of Zinc-Contaminated Soil Using Brassica Juncea and Lolium”. The hypothesis of the project was that if mustard seed and ryegrass are planted in zinc-contaminated soil, they will be able to successfully extract the metal, therefore leading to the remediation of the soil. Madeline planted the seeds from each plant in individual pots containing clean soil (control) or soil containing high and low levels of zinc, in duplicate for each control and treatment group, for each of the plants. The plants were monitored for 34 days, after which they were harvested and transported to the Agriculture and Food Laboratory, where the whole plant zinc levels were measured using Inductively-Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES). The results were quite promising: in highly contaminated soil, both plants extracted 20% of the zinc, while in soil with low levels of zinc, the plants extracted between 20-30% of the metal. What made this project stand out was the way Madeline analyzed and interpreted the data. She used experimental design and analytical chemistry techniques to answer questions related to environmental toxicology. Madeline was able to coordinate with different groups to conduct her analysis, showing initiative, collaboration and the critical thinking of a true scientist. Madeline was also the recipient of AcellorMittal Dofasco Hot Mill Award, the MU Alpha Theta Award and the Silver Merit Award. Congratulations, Madeline! As part of L-SETAC’s participation in the Ottawa Regional Science Fair, the projects that our judges were assigned to evaluate were based on a range of themes: clean energy production via waste; methane reclamation in livestock contexts; creation of a biodegradable alternative to plastic forks; re-use of grey-water; and, the effectiveness and effects of certain types of road salts and their alternatives. Our judging team was led by Hardeep Gill, and was made of our wonderful volunteers: Susan Roe, Gillian Manning, Mark Vandekloot, Parminder Dhami, Sigrun Kullik, Cristina Inglis, Adelle Strobel and Michael Beking. For our junior-level winner, the L-SETAC delegation selected "L'impact du sel de route sur les fleurs sauvages" by Julianne Jager. Julianne wished to determine the effect of road salt on wild flowers. We were very impressed by her experimental design. She used a variety of wild flowering plants and applied different types of road salts, each with a range of dosages. Furthermore, she implemented a sub-study to determine which road salt was most effective at melting ice. Our second award went to an intermediate level project, "Natural Alternatives to Styrene Butadiene Rubber Infill to Mitigate Artificial Turf Heating Effects" by David Zhu. David's project sought to reduce the exposure of athletes to organic contaminants found in the rubber infill of AstroTurf. At higher temperatures and incident light AstroTurf warms to a greater degree compared to grass turf. And, exposure to the contaminants in rubber infill is elevated as AstroTurf is heated. David used alternatives to rubber such as cork and crushed walnut shell to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by artificial turf. He exhibited a good depth of background knowledge with regard to the toxicity of organic contaminants and his presentation was equally impressive. David also received the Challenge Award and was third place winner in the Intermediate category, while Julianna received the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club Prize and she won the third place in the Junior category. Congratulations to both Julianna and David on their excellent projects! The Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair and the Ottawa Regional Science Fair were a great success, with Laurentian SETAC proud to have been present as a special awards contributor once again. These fairs bring together some of the best local youth with early passions for the sciences and engineering. It is always a surprise to see what novel or re-defined ideas are sparked from the next generation of students, and we wish them all the best in their future studies and endeavors! Submitted by Scott Hepditch and Oana Birceanu (BASEF) and Hardeep Gill (ORSF)

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