Podium finishes for UCC at national science fair

Our students earned places at the virtual podium at the Canada Wide Science Fair, with two Year 8 teams winning medals for their practical research projects.
Nicholas Cheng and Daniel Guan earned a junior division silver medal for their research into reusable water bottles and the materials that are most resistant to harmful bacteria, while Peter Alexis and his partner, Adrian Mak, earned both a bronze medal in the junior division for their research into radiation shields for laptops as well as the University of Toronto’s Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences Award for Physics. 

Each pair won a gold medal at the regional level to gain entry to the national competition and were delighted by their accomplishments.

"I jumped up and down when we got the results," Daniel says.

Adrian says working as a team yielded a great outcome: "Two minds are better than one."

Both teams originally conducted their research in Year 7 and had success in winning gold awards at the College’s science fair and the citywide competition. They would have progressed last year, but COVID-19 caused event cancellations, so they were given another chance this year to compete in the national fair.

Nicholas and Daniel were inspired by reading a 2018 study about the potentially harmful bacteria that accumulated in athletes’ water bottles and decided to test water in screw-top bottles made from five different materials to see which collected more bacteria after use. They drank from bottles made from copper, plastic, glass, stainless steel and aluminum, took swabs from the bottle lips and let cultures grow in the incubator. They found that, after use, the copper bottle accumulated the smallest amount of harmful bacteria, followed by plastic. Glass and stainless steel bottles grew the most bacteria.

"We were actually quite surprised," says Daniel. "Because stainless steel and glass bottles are usually expensive, we expected them to yield less bacteria."

They’ve shared the results with family, friends and classmates and while both students drank from BPA-free plastic water bottles before, they will switch to copper water bottles when they return to school.

Peter and Adrian chose to do a physics experiment to test which materials were most effective
at reducing electric, magnetic and radio-frequency radiation (EMF) emitted by their school
laptops. The pair’s research led them to order “10 of the most promising radiation-blocking
materials and a Trifield TF2 radiation measuring device,” says Peter. They tested different
material combinations and created their own laptop radiation shield prototype that successfully
reduced the overall EMF laptop radiation by 84 per cent; they have plans for further testing and
improvements.

Each team was asked to create a project board explaining their research, as well as a summary report; both were reviewed by a group of Canada Wide Science Fair judges, who then interviewed the teams virtually before deciding on the winners. A highlight of the competition for Peter and Adrian was receiving comments from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) showing interest in their project and informing them that the CSA did similar radiation testing on the International Space Station. "Our project has a benefit to the community, but it also has larger, real-world implications," Adrian says. 

The four students offered sincere thanks to science teachers Mr. Dupuis and Mr. Bruce for their invaluable academic guidance and support, and also expressed gratitude to their most stalwart supporters: their parents.

"On behalf of all the science teachers at the College, we congratulate the students on such a monumental achievement and look forward to their future successes," says Tayyabah Ahmed, the Upper School’s science faculty chair. "We also hope they serve as an inspiration to others to get their STEM ideas out there." 
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