Cranbrook student Keltie Murdoch has come back from the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Charlottetown from May 12 to 19 with some prestigious hardware, but she wasn't the only one.
Keltie was joined in P.E.I. by three fellow School District 5 students including Mount Baker's Luke Baxter with "Preventing Potholes" and two Fernie students Rosaele Tremblay and Jocelyn Tanton. Jocelyn won three scholarships totalling $1,800 for her project "Wheelchair Bowling Ramp".
"It's really great that we got four seniors there," said Sandi Lavery, COTR program co-ordinator and instructor with the UVIC East Kootenay Teacher Education Program who has mentored Keltie. Lavery is also one of the co-chairs of the East Kootenay Regional Science Fair along with Darcy Verbeurgt.
Keltie took home two awards, the most prestigious being the Canadian Society for Senior Engineers Engineering Innovation Award for her "GeoAir" project. The award came with a $1,000 scholarship.
Keltie also won the Ontario Power Generation Renewable Energy Award which included a $1,000 scholarship. Keltie says the engineering award was a big surprise for her.
"Winning the award was unexpected, but it makes me very happy to know that my project is regarded as a promising finding among professional engineers," Keltie told the Townsman. "More than anything, the award means to me that my project is one worth supporting and sticking with."
Hearing her name called for the award stunned the Grade 11 student, who never thought her project could catch such attention.
"After being called up to the stage to receive the award, I was in a state of shock," she said. "I have confidence in my project and what I have found, but I'm still in shock even now. I never thought it would be considered a nationally ranked engineering project."
Keltie's GeoAir project is a form of geothermal heating using air blown into buried tubing that pushes it up into a heat pump, housed in what she calls a "dog house" chamber on the exterior of a building. By the time the air reaches the other end of the tubing, it has warmed up significantly just by being passed underground. This is called the tempering process. The tempered air is then processed through the heat pump and the cold air is expelled out the top of the dog house, and the resultant hot air is pushed into the building's furnace and heating system. In the summer the process can be reversed, and the cold air is retained and circulated through the house while the hot air is released from the system.
Keltie wasn't the only local winner at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. The brainy student nominated Lavery for a teaching award. She received one of the coveted Isaac Technologies Science Teacher Awards for her mentoring of the young student. See more on Lavery's award next week in the Townsman.
Lavery said Keltie is setting a wonderful example for fellow Kootenay students hoping to break into the field of science.
"She's been an inspiration for so many youth in this area for science," said Lavery.
Keltie is flattered that her achievements are being looked to by younger students.
"I really hope other kids my age can see the benefit in putting effort into something like a science fair project," she said. "I hope I can be an example in encouraging youth to realize the great opportunities we have in our region to experience and to take advantage of the world of science and technology."
Lavery said the Canada-Wide Science Fair can change the lives of the students who attend.
"They find a whole niche that they fit in with," she said.
Keltie agrees, saying she looks forward to meeting new people with similar goals each year. She has been lucky enough to make it past the regional level to the national fair more than once.
"Each year I try to meet as many participants as possible because each student there is enthusiastic about what they do and what they've found," said Keltie. "The calibre of the projects is often humbling. It always feels great to be able to get to know students my age that are just as passionate about discovery as I am. The Canada-wide science fair always leaves me with great memories, warm friendships, and a renewed excitement for future science experiments."
Beyond the relationships she's building, Keltie got to explore beautiful Charlottetown thanks to activities planned by the fair.
"Every year at the national science fair is a completely different set of experiences," Keltie said. "In Charlottetown, a place I hadn't been to prior to the fair, I had the opportunity to explore the historic streets on foot and learn about the culture and lifestyle on the island."
Lavery believes the sky's the limit for Keltie and her GeoAir project.
"I'm encouraging her to take this further," Lavery said.
And Keltie hopes to do just that. She is currently working to install a fully working system into a multi-family home this summer and wants to investigate its use in small scale greenhouses.
One thing for sure is that Keltie has plenty of options for the future thanks to her success at the national fair. Next year's Canada-wide fair is in Lethbridge, where she could join on to Team Kootenay again.
Keltie is also thinking about going for Team Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2013.
She can also volunteer at the 2013 Canada-wide fair.
"I have the chance to either volunteer at the CWSF next year, or apply to be an ambassador (a CWSF alumnus with experience in volunteering) to support the finalists throughout the week," she said.
Keltie encourages everyone to check out next year's fair from May 11 to 18 in Lethbridge, since it will only be a short drive away. You can do so online at www.cwsf.youthscience.ca/fairs/2013.