Yesterday, I spent about an hour at the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair in the lecture wing of the Elliot Building at UVic. That was not nearly enough time. Although there was some duplication, the experiments covered a surprising variety of topics in physics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, engineering, the environment, and related disciplines.
The photo at left shows one of my favourite exhibits. It was an investigation into the relative effectiveness of different blade shapes for windmills. What I liked best about it can be seen near the bottom of the picture. Rather than simply being connected to a voltmeter, the windmill is used to pump coloured water up into a container, thus demonstrating its ability to do useful work. At the request of one of the organizers, I have obscured the young scientist’s name and will do the same for any more photos from the event.
Another experiment I liked was one that compared RF field strengths from “smart meters” and mobile telephones. The instrument that the student used was purchased for $250 from a company in Germany. Of course, that got me wondering about how much some parents had to spend on their children’s research projects. The way I remember it, this student explained that her father wanted the device anyway and that her science fair project provided the justification he needed for the purchase.
One project appeared to have required a significant amount of Python programming. I was very curious about how much Mum or Dad had participated in that one but there was no one around to ask.
Some exhibits were quite charming, like the one where two youngsters believed they had extracted kilowatts of power from a single lime. Apparently one of their dads had interpreted the millivolt readings on their Canadian Tire multimeter as being in units of power and had not considered the scale. The young lads were quite enthusiastic and proud of their work so I didn’t have the heart to tell them what they had really done. The important thing is that they had learned a lot about conducting an experiment and presenting their work.
I am already looking forward to the 2013 event but I hope I allocate more time next year.