Scientists of the future

G.W. Graham's biannual science fair had over 200 submissions; 15 were selected to go to the regional fair in Abbotsford in April.

Quinn Ingham demonstrates how his water filtration project works during G.W. Graham's biannual science fair on Thursday.

Quinn Ingham intends to take his water filtration system global. But first, he needs to win the regional science fair.

Ingham’s project, along with 14 other projects from the G.W. Graham middle school science fair, has been selected to represent the school at the regionals in Abbotsford.

Every two years, G.W. Graham middle-secondary school holds a science fair for its grades 7 and 8 students judged by GWG teachers and those in the science field.

The goal is to develop a young passion for science.

“This is so much about engagement, empowerment and choice,” said Chernoff.

“I hope we’re instilling a love for science and a love for lifelong learning.”

Like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind, Chernoff flits from one project to another, pointing out their individual excellences.

Electricity, gravity, magnetic levitation, germination, and more were on display – all with a tweenaged touch.

“I’ve seen crazy great projects today,” she said.

Listening to Grade 7 student Jack Lawson confidently talk about Newton’s law of gravitation, spouting out words and phrases like friction and centrifugal force as he explains the five trials he conducted using marbles and three down-sloped tracks, you’d expect to see a through-the-roof GPA next to his name. Not the “regular, every day” type grades he’s used to.

“But now he is completely engaged with science,” said Chernoff.

“There’s engagement everywhere.”

Grade 7 student Emma Gorby spent hours fiddling with magnetic forces, creating magic-like displays that repelled and propelled the metals before them.

Grade 7 student Sydney Dombowsky wanted to see how germ-filled her school was. Using petrie dishes and cotton swabs, she sampled keyboards, water fountains, locks, railings, and toilet seats in the girl’s washroom.

After a week of sitting at room temperature, Dombowsky – both excited and disgusted with the results – learned the gym’s water fountain and the library’s keyboard had grown the most bacteria.

“There’s a lot of bacteria in this school,” said Dombowsky, scrunching up her nose.

Third world awareness projects were featured in abundance.

Grade 7 student Madeline McCulloch took Brazilian Alfredo Moser’s idea of creating electricity with nothing more than a plastic bottle filled with water, a tiny bit of bleach, and the sun for her project.

“Some people don’t have access to electricity because they can’t afford it, and I wanted to see how this idea could work,” said McCulloch, showing off the results as she illuminated the black draped diorama of her project. “It’s a very inexpensive way to light a home.”

And then there was Quinn Ingham’s water-filtration system.

The Grade 8 student knew his facts, he knew that there are one in nine countries without access to clean water – 750 million people.

The science-loving student went to work. In a plastic bottle with a cut-out bottom, he created seven layers of rinsed fine and course sands and gravels, each separated by a coffee filter. He then poured brown, murky, dirty water – similar to that he imagined would be seen in third world countries – through the filter into a clean container.

The difference was visually startling – brown to fairly clear in no time.

While it’s not yet capable of filtering bacteria or viruses, it can filter sediment, mineral oil, chlorine, pesticides and other oils. And, according to Ingham’s taste test, “it’s actually not bad.”

“I’d like to build it up in the future,” he said. “I only had a couple weeks to work on it. With more time, I feel I could do more with it.”

Chernoff, who’s organized seven middle school science fairs in Chilliwack, hopes this year is the year they obtain gold at regionals, which will get them a spot at nationals.

The Fraser Valley regional science fair will be held in Abbotsford in April.