Three local students qualify for Canada-Wide Science Fair

Local Albert College students (from left) Isabella Isbester, Elliot Mundle, and Aidan Mundle join Susanna Moodie Elementary students Lily Woods (second from right) and Shoshanna Spencer (not pictured) as Quinte area qualifiers for the Canada-Wide Science Fair to be held next month in Ottawa. Submitted photo.

Adam Bramburger
Beaver Staff

Three Napanee students have earned trips to the Canada-Wide Science Fair after winning their categories at the Quinte Regional Science and Technology Fair last weekend in Belleville.

Isabella Isbester, a Grade 9 student at Albert College earned awards for the best project among Grade 9-12 students for “Sunflower Seed Germination.”

Albert Grade 11 student Aidan Mundle earned the Professional Engineers of Ontario Award, the City of Belleville Municipal Infrastructure Award, a $1,000 University of Ottawa scholarship award, and a $500 Loyalist College admission award for his project “Small Engine Carbon Capture.”

His brother Elliot, a Grade 9 student at Albert, earned the Trenton Pharmacy Biology Award for his “Diagnosis Salmonellosis.”

An avid swimmer, Isbester said she usually does her projects based on sports but this year she thought a different field might challenge her. She also wanted something no one else was involved with.

“I feel like chemistry is sort of fun, but I wanted to do something different than most kids would end up doing — something unique compared to everyone else’s project.”

Isbester was searching for ideas online and she learned about seeds competing with others to grow.

“Seeds know if they have competition and they’ll send out hormones,” she said. That got her wondering about seed groupings and how big a group would produce the best growth among seeds.

“I found that it’s better to grow in large groups, but not as large a group because one will die out and one will dominate. The ideal group would be three seeds — still enough room for all to grow with it being less likely they would all die out.”

Isbester bought a seed growing kid with dirt and nutrients and picked up sunflower seeds to go with it. She planted them and charted their growth for a week and three days.  She said her science teacher helped her to develop the process and her parents motivated her to stay on top of her measurements every day.

The judges told her they hadn’t really seen the idea before and thought it could be expanded to different types of plants and to differing environments, even a simulation on space. They also told her she’d receive the top awards in her category.

“I was shocked. There was a Grade 11 there too. I thought he would have got it,” she said. “All the science fair projects were very impressive. That’s why I was shocked.”

Aidan Mundle was that Grade 11 student. His project included finding ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in small engines through chemistry and engineering. Aidan built a reaction vessel, added his solutions inside it, and let the exhaust bubble through. He tested it using a Drive Clean tailpipe tester at Lynja Injection Services.

He said the use of calcium hydroxide, or hydrated lime,  reacted with carbon dioxide to make calcium carbonate and water and that had a significant impact, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 18 per cent.

“I came up with this idea at a think tank at the University of New Brunswick,” he said. “It turns out it’s being used in industry in smoke stacks and power plants.”

Aidan said he wasn’t aware of an application in small engines, however. He can’t help but think of the impact it could have on the world’s carbon problems.

“If it was implemented in the U.S. for one year, we would see 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide not released. That’s huge.”

The judges agreed and told him they liked the idea of bringing it to a consumer level and how relevant the study was to today’s issues.

He said he started the project in November and finished a week-and-a-half ago. Aidan’s goal was to make it to the national event in Ottawa and he’s excited for the chance to attend.

Elliot sampled foods including ground beef and vegetable and fruit mixes for internal bacteria. He liquified the samples and tested them in a Loyalist College lab, recording his results after 24 and 48 hours. He found there was bacterial growth in the beef and vegetables, but none in the fruit. The most likely bacteria, he said, was salmonella. He credited Loyalist professor Aleksander Masic for giving him guidance and access to a lab with properly sterilized equipment.

Beyond the testing, Elliot tried to raise awareness about bacterial culture.

“The second part is what we can do to clean the foods we are eating and how we can properly cook ground beef to make sure all the bacteria is out of it.”

Asked what a regular person could do to avoid being impacted by bacteria. He said by eating a lot of healthy food with probiotics, in most cases that would outweigh the negative effects of salmonellosis, which usually has symptoms like diarrhea or cramps. Those with compromised immune systems might need antibiotics. Elliot also went to the Quinte regional fair last year, but said he enjoyed this year’s fair more.

“It was completely different. The categories were much smaller and most of the people I was competing against were in my own class. Overall, I liked the experience more this year. My project was interesting and it was fun to do.”

All three students are looking forward to the experience at the Canada-Wide Science Fair at Carleton University, May 12-19. It will allow them to meet peers with the top 500 entries across the country and attend workshops and lectures with leading scientists. QRSC organizers indicated the opportunity was funded by the Belleville Kiwanis Club at a value of $2,100 per student.

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