The results are in. Children in the region excel at science fairs.
After four students from School District 60 were sent to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, last year for the Canada-wide science fair, one has been chosen to go to Taiwan for an international fair.
Kevala Van Volkenburg received a silver medal at the national competition for her project about whether The Brain Gym works to improve cognitive ability. Now she’s taking this project halfway across the world. Upon hearing the news via email, Van Volkenburg said she was happy.
“I was really, really excited,” she said as she smiled at the memory.
“I went running downstairs and I was like, ‘Hey, I made it!’ My mom was out of town at that time, but my dad was there.”
Van Volkenburg is competing as part of Team Canada along with one other British Columbian student from the East Kootenays.
She said she is most excited about “meeting different cultures and seeing different projects.”
The international fair is runs from Jan. 29 until Feb. 5.
“We might go a little bit early and leave a little bit late,” explained Van Volkenberg.
Barb Cook is the district’s science fair chair.
“It starts off at school fairs, then goes to regionals, then from regionals they go to Canada-wide, then the student applies for Taiwan,” she said.
Cook then addressed Van Volkenberg directly.
“I think you’re going to do a wonderful job representing the city, the province and the country,” she said.
Von Volkenberg, a Grade 10 student at the Energetic Learning Campus, said she’s proud to be the first person to attend the international fair from her school.
“For me personally, it really shows you how big the world is,” she said. “From here you say, ‘I’m from Fort St. John,’ and people don’t know where that is, so (when I’m in Taiwan I’ll say I’m) from Canada and that’s really cool. From my Charlie Lake school, they’ve never sent anyone, so that’s another big step.”
Von Volkenberg’s Taiwan trip was announced in Vancouver on Oct. 26, as part of a national science fair exhibit.
Cook explained that part of their participation included a networking trip to Vancouver for the entire provincial team through the British Columbia Innovation Council (BCIC).
“This event, it highlights, it showcases so many different activities that are going on throughout the province,” she said. “They essentially get to meet up with other students they have met or networked with, or any sort of chairs or teachers or parents or anything like that and they’re put up in pretty nice hotels.
“They’re kind of treated like celebrities for a few days to really recognize all of the hard work they’ve put into their science fair project.”
Von Volkenberg attended along with Megan Haugen-Koechl and Kyle Plamondon.
“I really enjoyed the centre for surgical studies,” said Von Volkenberg. “We played operation with four-million dollar equipment that’s for surgery.”
Haugen-Koechl said one of her favourite parts of the trip was meeting Steven Harvey – a dummy that simulates human disease.
“He breathes, he has a pulse, he blinks,” she said.
Plamondon said he enjoyed the networking night.
“We got to just talk to people that are in the jobs we might go into in the future,” he said.
The Grade 11 student said it’s helped him plan his future.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to go into engineering,” he said. “It hasn’t really changed for me, but I got to get more information.”
Haugen-Koechl, Grade 10, said the trip may have modified her future goals. Originally she said she wanted to be a chef, but now she’s finding herself interested in astronomy.
“I met a couple of astronomers when we went down there,” she said. “It really spiked my interested in that. I want to be more involved with space stuff.”
Van Volkenberg said she wants to be a marine biologist or a neuroscientist in the future.
“We went to an oceanography centre last year and that got me more involved in oceanography and we did some brain research a little while ago and that got me involved in neuroscience,” the Grade 10 student said.
All three have their science fair projects picked out for this year’s competition season.
Van Volkenberg plans to look into the bacteria on water fountains; Plamondon plans to do an astrophysics-based project about the expansion of the universe and Haugen-Koechl plans to continue her research into the nutritional value of pollen.
They are all students at the Energetic Learning Campus.
“It’s amazing,” said Von Volkenberg.
“When you know the teachers, it’s so much easier to talk to them because you’re comfortable with them,” she said.
Plamondon said he liked it so much, he came back for a second year.
“Last year I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I just came here with all my friends for a second year.”
Cook said the ELC is an ideal place for students who participate in the science fair.
“Project-based learning encompasses science fair to the tee.”