An appetite for STEM showcased through science fair

Eighteen 4-H members recently participated in 4-H Canada Science Fair. Photo by Johanna Matthews.

For Lara and Liesl Stewart of Calgary, being a member of 4-H has been an extremely rewarding experience. The sisters partake in a variety of 4-H programming, but recently participated in the 4-H Canada Science Fair in Truro, Nova Scotia.

The duo submitted one of 14 science fair projects that were evaluated in Canada’s only non-curricular science fair as part of 4-H Canada’s Science & Technology programming pillar, supported by Bayer.

Their project, “Biosecurity Disinfectant Efficacy” was one of four winning projects selected to advance to the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) to compete against the top science fair projects in the education system.

Their project studied the impacts of applying various cleaning solutions in terms of biosecurity. They experimented with assessing the efficacy of a variety of cleaning solutions, with recommendations to combat biosecurity challenges.

They chose their topic because in today’s globalized environment, biosecurity is crucial to everyone.

“In today’s environment, potentially harmful microorganisms spread rapidly through human contact via globalized movement. For this reason, Biosecurity is crucial to everyone, and its aim is to enhance the national ability to protect human health, agricultural systems, and the public that depends on them,” said Liesel.

“Our research on chemical mechanisms propelled us to conduct an experiment that would investigate the efficacy of our homemade cleaning solutions compared with common commercial cleaners used for daily biosecurity in the home. These innovations could potentially be recommended for use in third world countries where commercial cleaners are less available,” they said.

Sesh Iyengar congratulates Liesl and Lara Stewart for their winning science fair project, Biosecurity Disinfectant Efficacy. Photo by Barb Hardman.

Sesh Iyengar congratulates Liesl and Lara Stewart for their winning science fair project, Biosecurity Disinfectant Efficacy. Photo by Barb Hardman.

Judges impressed by scientific talent

Sesh Iyengar, Director, Regulatory Science for Bayer Crop Science, had the distinct pleasure of being selected as a judge for the 4-H Regional Science Fair.

“It was an honour to be asked to judge the experiments and projects that were submitted. The students followed their curiosity and passion to create some fantastic projects,” said Iyengar. “I was extremely impressed with the understanding they had on hypothesis testing, study design and analysis of data using the right statistical methods.”

The breadth of projects submitted ranged from mustard seed pesticides, to extracting chitan and chitosan from lobster tails, to determining whether crickets raised from household food waste will have a similar protein level to commercially raised crickets.

“Although it was an extremely challenging role as a judge, we did, after much deliberation, decide on four winners to advance to the Canada-Wide Science Fair,” said Iyengar. “I am very confident with the future of Science in Canada with the talent of young scientific minds we have. I have no doubt that some of these projects will mature into businesses that improve people’s lives.”

The five winners moving to the Canada Wide Science Fair

The five winners moving to the Canada Wide Science Fair taking place in Ottawa, Ontario from May 12-19, 2018. From L to R: Neleah L. (P.E.I);   Lara and Liesl S. (Alberta); Amanda H. (Alberta); Mac D (British Columbia). Photo by Johanna Matthews

Fostering young leaders in STEM

The 4-H Canada Science Fair is part of 4-H Canada’s ongoing commitment to furthering science and technology skills and knowledge development for youth through 4-H programming. Together, 4-H Canada and Bayer are encouraging youth to explore all areas of science and technology, with the hopes that these youth will continue to pursue their discoveries with the goal of affecting positive change for their communities.

“Now more than ever it is important not only to get youth involved in STEM but to be excited and interested by all the amazing possibilities STEM can hold,” said Shannon Benner, CEO 4-H Canada. “Together, 4-H Canada and Bayer are working to develop responsible, caring and contributing Canadian youth in the field of science and technology.”

The Stewarts agree and are applying STEM in real-world situations.

“STEM education helps transfer and combine the knowledge that is learned from textbooks into a tangible experience through concepts that occur in relative situations,” said Liesl. “It also helps with your problems solving skills and as well as strengthening your application of knowledge. For example, when Lara and I confronted problems with our experiment, we implemented our background knowledge in Biology and Chemistry in order to overcome obstacles and fully comprehend our experiment's results.”

They’re also excited to competing at the upcoming CWSF in Ottawa.

“We are excited to present our project again with our fellow 4-H members, meet new inspiring youth, and learn about different interests and innovative projects across Canada. This opportunity is such an honor, and we look forward to representing 4-H Canada in Ottawa”

The three other winning projects to advance to the CWSF in May are:

Cost-Effective Extraction of Chitin and Chitosan from Lobster Shells – Neleah L., Prince Edward Island

An experiment assessing whether household chemicals can be used to extract chitin and chitosan from lobster shells, at an equal efficacy as lab-grade chemicals, and at a significantly reduced cost.

Safer Chick-Ments – Mac D., British Columbia

An innovation project looking at designing a chick shipment container that reduces stress and mortality in day-old chicks being shipped in the poultry industry.

Crickets for Lunch – Amanda H., Alberta

An experiment looking at whether it is possible to raise crickets from household food waste to have a similar protein level to commercially raised crickets.