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Laurentian SETAC at the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair

Laurentian SETAC did it again! For the fifth year in a row, we participated in a local science fair, and what an amazing experience it was! On March 21, Oana Birceanu, Ève Gilroy, Joel Nichols, and Dave Rodgers attended the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair at Hillfield-Strathallan College in Hamilton. We went through the numerous projects sent to us by the organizers ahead of time and selected the ones that best matched our criteria for the annual award (best project and presentation on a topic related to environmental toxicology, chemistry, pollution, contamination, remediation, or environmental protection). This year, after our preliminary selection, we reviewed 29 projects in total. On the day of the fair, we split up into groups of two and each group was given half of the selected projects to review. We then visited each student’s poster before they arrived and rated their presentation based on scientific thought (the originality of the idea for the experiment), display (how well the student was able to present their findings on the poster), and abstract (how well the abstract reflected their findings). Once these scores were awarded, the judges reconvened and summed the scores for each project. The top six projects were then selected for an interview. All the students did an incredible job, and this year Laurentian SETAC decided to split the award between two projects that stood out the most. Both projects were junior level (grade 7/8), and we were surprised by how ingenious the projects were and how well the students answered our questions. The awardees were Graham Bohm from St. Augustine School in Dundas, and Haydn Wain-Lowe from Hillfield-Strathallan College in Hamilton. Both Graham and Haydn also won the Canada-Wide Science Fair Trip Award. Haydn won gold in the Primary Systems Fluid Awards, plus four additional special awards, while Graham won silver in the Primary Systems Fluid Awards, plus six additional special awards. The Laurentian SETAC award was part of the total number of special awards won by each candidate. Congratulations to our amazing winners! Graham’s project was called “Evading Erosion” and the overall goal was to determine which coastal plants provided the best protection against erosion during an extreme weather event. Graham built an artificial river and exposed the plants (cattails, grasses, and shrubs) to various river flow rates. He determined that, overall, 85.5% of the soil was lost during high flow in the absence of vegetation. Shrubs provided the best protection, with only 8.5% of the soil being washed off during high flow, compared to 17.8% for grasses and 31.3% for cattails. Haydn’s project was called “Roundabout time?” and the overall goal was to determine if cars approaching a light at an intersection idled more than cars approaching a roundabout. After doing a considerable amount of research, Haydn put together a questionnaire to gather local drivers’ opinions on roundabouts and idling, and distributed it to 47 drivers in the city of Hamilton. He then designed his experiment by counting the number of cars driving through a green light and a roundabout, counting the number of cars stopped at a red light and a roundabout, and the total amount of time they were stopped at each one of those two scenarios. His findings suggested that drivers idled ten seconds more at stop lights than roundabouts, making the roundabouts more environmentally friendly. Moreover, this study revealed that drivers were aware of the benefits of roundabouts and that they would like to see more in their city. Overall, the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair was a great success yet again and Laurentian SETAC is proud to have been part of the judging process once more. Our judges were pleasantly surprised, as they are every year, at the ingenuity of the projects and with the knowledge of the students. We are certain that these budding scientists will have a great future ahead of them if they decide to pursue science further. Submitted by Oana Birceanu

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