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Laurentian SETAC at Regional Science Fairs

This spring, as it has for several years, Laurentian SETAC was very pleased to participate in two regional Science Fairs: the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair (BASEF, 26–29 March, Mohawk College, Hamilton) and the Ottawa Regional Science Fair (ORSF, 4–5 April 4-5, Carleton University, Ottawa).


Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair – 27 March This year, six enthusiastic judges (and a freeloader!) met at Mohawk College to review over sixty projects related to Laurentian SETAC’s selection criterion:

Best project and presentation on a topic related to: environmental toxicology, chemistry, pollution, contamination, remediation, or environmental protection. Although L-SETAC judges are usually quite eager to participate again the following year, this year four of the six judges representing Laurentian SETAC were new (many of last year’s judges had to bow out due to conflicting schedules). We saw a lot of very interesting projects and met many enthusiastic and promising budding scientists. In the end, we elected to split the award in two, as we have done in the past (Junior vs. Intermediate/Senior projects). Our congratulations go to this year’s winners, Jessica Bohm from St. Augustine for her project,  “How Crude is Your Oil?” and to Neha Malhotra and Shannin Tee from North Park Collegiate and Vocational School for their project called “Pass Me the Caffeine! Honourable mentions also go to Frank Rivas-Gonzalez from Pope John Paul II Catholic Elementary School for his project called “Do We Share Equal Air?” and Ayat Khalil and Jaclyn Clark from Barton Secondary School for their project,  “Using Daphnia as a Bioassay to Measure Water Toxicity.” Many thanks to my fellow judges, Yamini Gopalapillai, Julie Marentette, Joel Nichols, Ryan Prosser, Mary Ellen Starodub, and especially my lovely fellow judging partner, Maya Gilroy!


Ottawa Regional Science Fair – 5 April This year, the ORSF celebrated its 53rd Anniversary on Saturday, 5 April at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. The 2014 ORSF was a huge success with students from Grades 7 to 12 contributing over 200 projects to the Fair. L-SETAC donated $100 to the ORSF to help support the costs of the volunteer-run fair and to help send winners to the Canada Wide Fair. L-SETAC also provided a $100 award for the best project on a topic related to Environmental Toxicology, Chemistry, Pollution, Contamination, Remediation or Environmental Protection. There was immense interest in the L-SETAC award, with an incredible 55 projects applying for our award. This meant that our hardworking volunteer judges collectively evaluated roughly a quarter of all projects at the ORSF! L-SETAC judges were extremely impressed with the enthusiasm, innovation, creativity, and scientific excellence of the students. Project topics ranged greatly, from: exploring the use of fire retardants in children’s pajamas; testing the detrimental effects of road salt used in the Ottawa region on brine shrimp cultures; the use of banana peel waste as a biosorbent for lead in water, and testing the efficacy of bioplastics made from potato starches and corn husks to replace polystyrene. Ultimately, the delegation decided to award Hassan Ali-Rage the L-SETAC ORSF Special Award for his junior level project, “Comparing Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells.” After learning of the great amount of energy required to refine solar-voltaic grade silicon from metallurgical grade, Hassan wanted to test the effectiveness of using plant based dyes as a replacement for silicon in solar-cells. Tests were conducted on extracts of various berries (blackberry, strawberry, blueberry) in a constructed solar cell where voltages were recorded. Hassan noted that the biological dyes used were prone to destabilization and that future experiments would involve the use of amino acids or antioxidants to prevent premature degradation. The judges of the L-SETAC delegation would also like to give honorable mention to Jennifer McTaggart and Autumn Wild for their project, “Clean and Green Polystryene” and Catherine Wu for her project “Bacteria Busters.” Many thanks to our volunteer judges and congratulations to Hassan Ali-Rage!


Did you know? Laurentian SETAC’s first participation in a Science Fair was in 2009, at the BASEF. Given its success, participation in the ORSF was added in 2010. So Laurentian SETAC celebrated its fifth (ORSF) and sixth (BASEF) year at Science Fairs! -Submitted by Ève Gilroy (BASEF) and Hardeep Gill (ORSF)

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