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The 2012 Bay-Area Science and Engineering Fair

On March 29, Oana Birceanu, Ève Gilroy, Joel Nichols and Dave Rodgers attended the 52nd Annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair (BASEF) at Mohawk College in Hamilton - Laurentian SETAC's fourth year in a row. After reviewing the countless abstracts provided ahead of time by the BASEF, the judges narrowed down the number of projects to a manageable number. There were a number of excellent projects, but in the end, a Junior project (grade 7/8) by Michael Carbone and Jacob Scott, from St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Stoney Creek, won the Laurentian SETAC award for their project, called "Oil and the Environment: Do They Mix?".

Michael and Jacob chose this project because they wanted to determine, first, if soil contaminated with motor oil can be cleaned, and second, to what degree plant growth is affected in this type of contaminated soil. Their experiment was neatly designed, as the two junior students grew control plants (in non-contaminated soil) and treatment plants (in soil contaminated with oil). They completed the experiment with plants with fibrous roots and plants with bulbous roots, to determine if root type affects oil uptake by the plants. In order to determine which agents cleaned the oil from the soil better, they grew both types of plants in oil-contaminated soil to which they mixed cat litter, sand, Chomp and dish soap. Lastly, they also had a pot where they added motor oil daily to the soil, to account for any of the soil absorbing the oil and not making it available to the plants. The two budding scientists were able to determine that Chomp and sand were the most effective at diluting the oil from the soil, which allowed for normal plant growth. Their findings also showed some surprising results. They found that the oil penetrated the plant roofs after two days in fibrous roots and seven days in bulbous roots. By the end of the experiment, the researchers noted oil leaking from the plant leaves, regardless of the root type. In addition to the Laurentian SETAC award, Michael and Jacob won the Silver Merit Award, a Primary Fluid Systems Earth and Environment Award 1st- B, and an ArcelorMittal Dofasco Research & Development Award. Congratulations to our winners! Overall, the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair was a great success and Laurentian SETAC was proud to be part of the judging for this particular event. Our judges got to interact with some extraordinary budding scientists, who for sure have a great future ahead of them if they decide to follow on the path of science. Submitted by Oana Birceanu and Ève Gilroy

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