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First Qikiqtaaluk science fair in 18 years yields three projects for nationals

Thanks to a movement to resurrect science fairs in the region, three Inuksuk High School students will represent the Qikiqtaaluk at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in May, providing $10,000 can be raised.

The national fair takes place in Fredericton, N.B. May 15 to 17.

Chaperone Jean-Francois Latour, left, and Qikiqtaaluk science-fair winners Lena Chown, Rosalie DeMaio, Alysha Lippert and Penelope Armstrong are excited at the prospect their projects will represent the region at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in May.
photo courtesy Steve Penney

Teacher Steve Penney brought science fairs back to Inuksuk High School four years ago and, with the help of others on the newly-minted Qikiqtaalummi Science Fair Association, launched the regional fair. Clyde River’s Wayne Robinson and Rohan Hollingsworth and Iqaluit’s Tara Vandeveer and Rick Armstrong are also members of the association.

"In excess of 35 projects were judged for our first science fair in over a decade. The kids were really up for it. It was so amazing passing by their classrooms while they prepared for the event," stated Robinson on the regional fair's Facebook page.

Penney says Clyde River and Iqaluit were the only participants in the regional virtual fair.

"We had six projects, three from Iqaluit and three from Clyde River," said Penney. "We're hoping to increase that number exponentially. But this was our first year. This was the first time the regional fair has happened since 2002."

Judges were provided by Let's Talk Science, a science organization that does science outreach to youth across Canada. Penney used this service in the Kivalliq region when he was involved in science fairs there.

The three Iqaluit projects won the three top spots: Alysha Lippert took first place with Is There a Correlation Between Iqaluit's Meteorological History and National CO2 Emissions, Penelope Armstrong took second with What's in Your Water?, and Lena Chown and teammate Rosalie DeMaio took third with Iqaluit's Water.

Clyde River's Nikita Hainnu took the Ted Rogers Innovation Award with her project Solar Cell Phone Charger.

Each Canadian region can only send three participants based on its Grade 7 to 12 school population.

"I conducted a seven-day experiment where I tested all the water I drank during that week. I tested for four elements – pH, alkalinity, chlorine and hardness," said Armstrong.

"I did this because I understand that safe water is the key to a safe community. I wanted to see if my water met government standards, and if levels depended on infrastructure and location."

Armstrong found all water does meet government standards.

"I went to the pool, I went to my house, my friend's house, different places in the school. Overall, our water did fluctuate, it did change, but it was quite constant," she said.

"So that means our water treatment plant is doing a very good job."

Armstrong says she only tested for certain elements but, now that she knows she'll be going to the national fair, she wants to expand her study.

"There will be 500 other young scientists there so I'm very excited to meet many people and learn lots of things," said the Grade 9 student, who is currently interested in space.

Chown and DeMaio, meanwhile, wanted to find out about the hardness levels of Iqaluit water, carbon dioxide levels, as well as alkalinity and acidity. They drew water from Frobisher Bay, pumped water from home, trucked water, and the school fountain.

"We found that the hardness levels were really high on trucked water and the school fountain. Some of the tests didn't work for certain waters, and I believe that could be due to different chemicals within the water that interacted, causing it to be inconclusive," said Chown.

Hardness, explained Chown, relates to the calcium and magnesium levels in water.

"If it's really hard water and you heat it up, it can really clog your pipes and appliances ... and lower their efficiency and they won't last as long," said Chown, also a Grade 9 student.

Chown is equally excited about going to the national fair.

"I can't wait to see all the projects from all across Canada," she said.

Jean-Francois Latour, who will be one of two adults to accompany the students to the national fair, explained Lippert's project, which examined how CO2 emissions in Canada affected the weather in Nunavut.

"In her case it was a study, and she collected the data from many, many years and compared them, and came to the conclusion that there is an effect," he said.

"There was a lot of number-crunching and graphs, but was able to visualize what's happening."

Lippert is a Grade 12 student.

Water was the theme this year for the Canada-Wide Science Fair. That Iqaluit is experiencing water issues is a coincidence.

To raise funds, a GoFundMe page was started. Currently, of $10,000, $1,100 has been raised. Penney says he will be soliciting funds in the coming weeks.