An Inuksuk High School student is reaping the rewards of participating in the first regional science fair in the Qikiqtaaluk in almost 20 years, and then the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF).
"It was such an amazing experience. I'm so glad that I got to participate in such a thing. I met so many different people who were like-minded, who really wanted to change the world in a positive way," said Penelope Armstrong about the national fair held in Fredericton, N.B. May 15 to 17.
"It was so nice to be around people who were similar as me, but who also were very different, and were all eager to share their ideas."
Roughly 500 students from across Canada participated.
Further, Armstrong explains science fair participants had to pick an award and apply for it. She chose SHAD – a 27-day STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and entrepreneurship based summer enrichment program at a university.
"Four different judges came during judging day and I had to present my project, explain why I deserved the SHAD (scholarship) and during the award ceremony, they called my name," said Armstrong.
Her project was one of the top three of six regional projects at the Qikiqtaalummi Science Fair and addressed the question "What is in your water?" by analyzing Iqaluit water from various locations for pH, alkalinity, chlorine, and hardness.
"Kids in Nunavut have great potential, as any educator would say," said Wayne Robinson, Clyde River's Quluaq School science teacher and president of the Qikiqtaalummi Science Fair Association.
He says science fairs ignite that potential and motivate students to do better at their academics.
He points to Grade 9 Quluaq student Nikita Hainnu, who took home the Ted Rogers Innovation Award with her project Solar Cell Phone Charger at the regional level.
"She encountered a problem, and she was very tenacious, she pushed through and found a way to solve it," said Robinson, adding Hainnu's tenacity in working on her project led to innovation.
While the Qikiqtaalummi Science Fair Association is new this year, and resurrected the regional fair after almost two decades since the last one, Robinson and fellow board members – Clyde River's Rohan Hollingsworth and Iqaluit’s Steve Penney, Tara Vandeveer and Rick Armstrong – hope to see more schools participate next year. Quluaq and Inuksuk were the only two schools to participate.
"It's a small start in the right direction," said Robinson.
The board members will debrief and hope to help other schools and science teachers in the region to get motivated.
"We really want to expand now that we know it can be done. We'll look into a drive to push all the communities to join in," said Robinson.
As an example, Quluaq School held its first science fair in 10 years this year, which saw more than 35 projects designed and executed by students. The community came out in full support, said Robinson.
Inuksuk High Grade 12 student Alysha Lippert and Grade 9 student Lena Chown also attended the Canada-Wide Science Fair.
"My time at CWSF has been, to say the least, a privilege and an honour," said Lippert. "I have felt so lucky to have been given the opportunity to meet other young Canadians from across the country; to have learned and grown from the projects of others, as well as my own, and to experience the events, cultures and insights that the fair has to offer."
Chown adds, "CWSF has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’ve gotten the chance to meet so many smart and amazing people who have really opened my eyes to a whole new world of science.”
Fundraising made attendance at the national fair possible.
"With generous donations from corporate and private sponsors, we sent five individuals, a delegate, a chaperone and three innovative young scientists, to this premier science fair," said Robinson.
Contributors included: World Wildlife Fund Canada, Kakivak Association, Order of the Royal Purple Iqaluit, Mary Anne Lenio, Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council, Armstrong Graphics and GoFundMe donors.
Armstrong encourages all students to get into science projects.
"Even if you are not interested in science, it showed me what university is going to be like, and all the different people out there, because Iqaluit is kind of isolated sometimes. I definitely recommend it," she said.