A science fair in Abu Dhabi welcomed students from 58 different countries to showcase their original work, and thanks to two local aspiring scientists, Langley was represented on the international stage.
“When I first got there, it was completely overwhelming, because there were so many kids there. I had never gone to a science fair that big before,” said Mac Dykeman, a Grade 8 student at Langley Fine Arts School.
Sarah Choi, a Grade 12 student at R.E. Mountain Secondary, enjoyed the new perspective she gained.
“My experience [at the fair] was life-changing,” she said. “I was able to meet students from all over the world and discuss research with them.”
The teens were offered to showcase their work at the international fair after being finalists at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) last year, where Dykeman won top junior scientist and Choi took home a sliver medal, among many other top awards.
Dykeman, 14, has lived on a poultry farm all her life – where she found the inspiration for her research-project-turned innovation.
“Farming isn’t such a big component there, so a lot of kids were actually amazed that I lived on a farm,” she said.
Her award winning idea to redesign a shipping box that carry baby chicks first came to her in August 2017 when she noticed the chicks would arrive at their destination injured in the container.
“I thought this is an opportunity to figure out maybe why the birds were injuring each other [while] being shipped,” said Dykeman, who first embarked on the project for her local 4-H science fair.
Through her research she learned of two major problems with the cardboard containers the chicks were shipped in – shape and temperature control.
Traditionally, a “hot pocket” is used to provide warmth to the chicks, but Dykeman found the heat was being unevenly distributed and the chicks were trying to get away from the heat source.
“I found that the birds would crush each other huddling in the corners of the boxes,” said Dykeman.
She was eventually able to create a new shipping container with rounded edges and a raised floor that evenly distributed the heat.
Dykeman has applied to patent her idea and is working to turn her project into a business.
“I have a website so I want to soon start getting this distributed,” she said.
Choi attended the fair to deliver her findings about developing an environmentally friendly fertilizer.
“I have a friend from Afghanistan who I started doing research with, and she told me about the crop failures she experienced during her childhood in Afghanistan,” she said. “I became more aware of global hunger issues and… I was shocked to find out about the significant portion of greenhouse gases being caused by synthetic fertilizer application, and I wanted to find an alternative to chemical fertilizers that contribute to this environmental problem.”
Choi has been doing research at the Institute of Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and said she has developed a potential sustainable solution that uses black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) frass (excrement of insect larvae,). The waste product can act as an organic substitute for synthetic fertilizers, which release harmful chemicals in the environment.
“Frass not only improved soil fertility but had the ability to do so without causing harm to the environment… [it] can be also made available on the market for consumers at a lower, more competitive price than competing conventional synthetic fertilizers due to its origin in North America and mass quantities available to be bred in a controlled environment,” she said.
The International Movement for Leisure Activities in Science and Technology (MILSET) was held from Sept. 22 to 28 which saw approximately 1,200 participants from about the globe. The event is an initiative of the Expo-Sciences International (ESI), which is a non-competitive fair that focuses on encouraging scientific culture among youth.
All 45 aspiring scientists representing Canada were finalists at the 2018 CWSF; seven students represented British Columbia.
“It was very overwhelming, but it was very cool to get to widen your horizon even more… kind of makes you realize how large the world is,” Dykeman laughed.
The fair was also an opportunity for participants to explore the countries’ different cultures. Dykeman was particularly impressed with Dubai.
“They had camel riding and falcon holding, pretty cool,” she said.
Getting to meet people from around the globe was another highlight.
“It was [my] first time travelling to the [United Arab Emirates] and it was such an excellent experience culturally,” Choi echoed.
Choi plans to continue her research and she intends to pursue a major in life sciences for her post-secondary studies.
Dykeman said she will continue work in avian studies and developing her business. She aspires to pursue her post-secondary studies in bioarcheology at Oxford University.