Canada’s leading environmental scientists and engineers continue to see promise in Aidan Mundle’s efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from engines.
The Albert College Grade 11 student’s science project was judged one of the 70 best in his age category at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, May 12-19.
Mundle advanced to the national competition after impressing judges at the Quinte regional fair by showing that a calcium hydroxide solution could react with carbon dioxide within a vessel to produce calcium carbonate and lime — most importantly, reducing emissions from a small four-stroke engine by 42 per cent.
He built two prototype reaction vessels from common materials that he ran a generator’s exhaust through in order to test chemical reactions.
At that time, he told the Beaver its implementation in the United States for one year would mean 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide would not be released.
During his time at Carleton University, Mundle had plenty of opportunity to share his science with the public, those in the field, and even federal environment minister Catherine McKenna.
“I thought it was amazing a federal minister would want to talk with high school students about what they think is important,” Mundle said of their talk. He added McKenna asked some good questions about how to implement the students’ ideas.
With respect to his own project, he said he couldn’t remember the minister’s exact words, but that she mentioned it was “a great idea” and “really impressive.”
During judging sessions, Mundle faced scrutiny from 13 professionals in environmental science or engineering. Each spent about 20 minutes with him. That might be daunting for some, but Mundle appreciated it.
“After the first two judges or so, it becomes so natural that your spiel and even the questions asked gets monotonous,” he said. “Every judge had a different opinion and different questions they ask. They make sure to keep you on your toes.”
On one occasion, Mundle said a judge asked him question that forced him to consider his project in a different way.
Mostly, the judges offered suggestions for how Mundle could continue to develop the project he started last November and tested at Lynja Injection Services.
“They commented a lot on further steps and future development, how I might make my prototype more efficient,” he said. “They also suggested I might patent this and shared what they thought I could improve in my spiel or speeches.”
Mundle says he sees his next steps as working to improve the prototype, licencing it out to a manufacturer that might market it with its existing design, and pursuing a patent. He also hasn’t ruled out further experimentation.
His effort also earned him $1,000 entrance scholarships respectively to Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, and Western University.
Beyond the excitement of the awards, Mundle said he really appreciated the ability to be one of 500 students attending the Canada-Wide Science Fair alongside his brother Elliot and Isabella Isbester, Grade 9 Albert College students.
“It was an amazing opportunity. I got to meet a lot of like-minded people and experienced all that Carleton University has to offer,” he said.
Mundle said after public viewings or judging, the students had opportunities to mingle with their peers and attend lab experiences and workshops at Carleton and the University of Ottawa. There was also a STEM Expo where government agencies, museums, post-secondary institutions, and private companies offered demonstrations and hands-on activities for participants in the fair and other students.
Among the experiences that left an impression on Mundle was a motion capture lab at Carleton, capturing a human figure on 3D software to make the actions of a video game character more lifelike and a wind tunnel demonstration.
It was also a neat experience, he said, to be able to share in the experience with his brother. They roomed together, fittingly, in a residence building named after Lennox and Addington County and, along with Isbester, took in several of the tours and demonstrations together.
With one more year of secondary school to go, Mundle said he’d welcome the opportunity to go back to the Canada-Wide Science Fair next year in Fredericton, N.B.
“If given the chance, I would go in a heartbeat. It was amazing,” he said, adding that it would be a great experience for any student.
“Everybody should try to do a science fair at a high level and not just do it for the mark you get,” he said. “I wasn’t getting any curricular credit for this. I decided to do it outside of school and I suggest others do that. It was a great experience and very rewarding.”