Warhurst sisters win silver at Canada-Wide Science Fair

It’s all in the family.

For the first time that anyone can recall, two students from Lillooet have won silver medals at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

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Sisters Meg and Piper Warhurst were two of 18 silver medalists from B.C. entered in the Fair, held May 11-16 in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“They did really well,” said their mentor Lynn Albertson. She told the News she didn’t have silver medal expectations for them, considering the 402 projects and approximately 500 participants entered in the competition, which draws young scientists from across the country.

Piper Warhurst told the News that after the bronze medalists were announced at the awards ceremony, “I wasn’t really listening. Then when they were announcing the silver, Meg’s name got called before mine, so then I was really listening.”

“It was kind of funny stepping up on the stage,” Meg recalled. “Then they called Piper’s name so she was right there beside me.”

Meg’s project “Wildfires: Protect your home” evaluated whether the landscaping around a house can protect the building from wildfires. Meg is a Grade 9 student at Lillooet Secondary School.

Through her research, she learned that having grass around a home is a good fire deterrent. She said succulents and other fire-retardant plants can also make a difference, acting as a barrier between the fire and the building.

Piper’s project “Youth, Vitamin D and Activity - What’s the connection?” explored the current relationship between the lifestyle choices and serologic Vitamin D levels in Lillooet youth. She is in Grade 7 and is home-schooled.

“I found that 85 per cent of youths ages 12 to 17 were low” in their Vitamin D, she explained. She said the causes for the deficiency are partly dietary and partly because local teenagers are “not getting enough time outside in the sun.”

The levels were determined through blood tests.

Meg and Piper are already planning next year’s science projects. Piper said she’s considering studying Women in Science and scientific careers for women. Meg intends to continue studying how to protect homes from wildfires, using more realistic model homes.

Lynn Albertson has worked with Meg since she was in Grade 4 and with Piper since she was in Grade 3 on multiple science fair projects.

Albertson described the process: “Both girls do their projects, they write them up and present them to me. I give suggestions, they present them to me again, and I give more feedback. I’m more involved in the final part of the project than at the beginning. Whereas with Keenan (their younger brother), basically it was Keenan and myself that went through the whole thing, except I didn’t go over and measure the chicken eggs for him.” Keenan’s “Eggsperiment” project focused on varying food choices for chickens, comparing egg size and quantity.

Meg, Piper, their sister Tessa and brother Keenan all won gold medals at the Regional Science Fair, held in Kamloops in April. Meg Warhurst won an additional four awards including the Interior Science Innovation Council of Environment, the Society for Canadian Women in Science Trophy, Best Environmental Science Project and the Best Project for Grades 9 -10.

The Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) is an annual science fair in Canada coordinated by Youth Science Canada. Started in 1962, it is the highest level of competition in Canada, and approximately 400 projects and 500 students are judged at the fair. Finalists must qualify from approximately 25,000 competitors at over 100 regional science fairs and one provincial competition held in Quebec.

Competition is split into three age categories: Junior for Grades 7 and 8, Intermediate for Grades 9 and 10, and Senior for Grades 11 and 12.

The Canada-Wide Science Fair is an opportunity for students to showcase their scientific achievements alongside fellow students who share a similar passion for science and technology. In order to be able to participate at the CWSF, students need to first compete at their regional science fairs. Only those selected few who attain top positions at their regional science fairs will be eligible to compete at the week-long CWSF.

Throughout the week, they not only engage in the judging process, but they are also given the opportunity to meet other young scientists from across Canada. They also participate in a number of excursions in the region where the CWSF takes place, mixing education with recreation.

Piper Warhurst said they visited Hopewell Rocks, which have the second highest tides in the world, and Cape Enrage, also located on the Bay of Fundy.

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