Gathered in the gym of William McDonald School on Monday, students competed for top honours in Yellowknife’s Regional Learning Fair.

Ella Bertelsen, left, hands over a plate of Mac and Cheese to Christopher Morgan of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at William McDonald School during the Regional Learning Fair on Monday. Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

After completing fairs at their respective schools, the presenters competed to be the best the region has to offer – representing Yellowknife’s future innovators and researchers. Two of them – Grade 10 student Hillary Hunyh, who researched memory and facial recognition and Grade eight student Riley Oldford, who studied the effect of his leg braces on hyper-extension – have already qualified for the Canada-wide Science Fair hosted in Fredericton later this month.

Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for Grades four, five, six, seven, eight, and 10 students on Monday evening. On top of science, researchers also covered heritage, with eight of the participating students heading to the subject’s territorial showcase following the fair.

Generally starting in January, the students were split up: Grades four and six students could choose heritage research topics, while Grades five and seven students could explore the scientific method. Grade eight students and above could have their choice of either stream.

There’s a reason behind that.

Despite making strides in heritage, the Yellowknife Regional Learning Fair Committee noticed science was lagging behind. It opted to boost students’ research by limiting the fives and sevens to the subject for their projects, according to Monique Marinier, committee chairperson of Foire regionale d’apprentissage de Yellowknife (Regional Learning Fair).

But it’s all worth it for the students who are introduced to the scientific process, said Marinier.

To begin, students received a question or a hypothesis, before collecting and analyzing their data and finally drawing conclusion from the project.

There were no volcanoes, however – the topics are usually more centred on students’ innate curiosity about the world around them. “It’s phenomenal,” said Marinier. “They learn to investigate something of interest to them. They learn to push that research further and further.”

She noted some students chose to research their own relatives, or local issues, ranging from arsenic levels in fish to the ice density on Great Slave Lake.

One of the students headed to the national competition, Riley Oldford, had a unique personal stake in his project. Living with cerebral palsy, Oldford primarily uses a wheelchair and walker to get around. A few years ago, he learned his knees were hyper-extending, which could lead to damage if left unchecked.

“We went through a whole bunch of options, a lot of different knee braces,” he said. “We tried to see if they worked, and how they worked, (and) if they fit right and were comfortable.”

After a few snags, Oldford discovered Knee Ankle Foot Orthotics (KFAOs), “big, thick bulky contraptions,” according to him. Luckily, a team in Calgary at the Alberta Children’s Hospital made their own brace to design and modify it for “a sporty version.”

Oldford’s project asked if they worked. They did and more: Unexpectedly, the braces also assisted Oldford’s knee rotation that had gone unnoticed.

Meanwhile, Hillary Huynh studied her teachers’ ability to retain a person’s face. She had been tackling the subject for two years, with a previous project analyzing adolescent retention, compared between men and women. Her grandparents inspired the project: one’s memory was “like a goldfish,” while the other had a more admirable retention rate, she said.

That follows the results of her latest project, which found adult women retained the most information.

“To my surprise, (the teachers) were very encouraging partaking in the experiment,” she said.

Huynh said they enjoyed the experiment and encouraged her to continue research, thanking her for tips on how to improve memory.

Twenty judges, including members of the Canadian Forces 440 squadron , stopped by the students presentation boards, asking questions and picking up some new knowledge from the projects.

Win or lose, the students have gained some valuable skills growing their understanding of the world around them.

Committee Chairperson Monique Marinier hopes the students walk away with a “thirst of learning. That desire to learn. That intrinsic desire to learn and to push yourself to be the best you can be.”

Heritage and science medals awarded to students at Regional Learning Fair

Grade 8 Heritage

Gold – Canada’s Contribution to Space, Madison Mobach

Silver – Per Ardua Ad Astra: l’histoire de Avro Air, Effie Lockhartfe

Bronze – Healing with Herbs, Nico Morin

Grade 6 Heritage

Gold – Nellie McClung “Ne jamais sous-estimer le pouvoir d’une femme,” Annabella Churchill

Silver – L’instant Pot “Restez affames et restez deraisonnables,” Ella Bertelsen

Bronze – La Crise d’Octobre, Kaatje Fulford

Grade 4 Heritage

Gold – Les panneaux glaces, Sadee Mitchell

Silver – Ma grand-mere: Alice Powless, Evelyn Powless

Bronze – The RCMP, Axel Munro

Grade 8 Science

Gold – Comment est-ce que les differents types de pergelisol reagissent quand ils degelent?, Makoa Kokelj

Silver – Seriez-vous un temoin fiable?, Teresa Martin

Grade 7 Science

Gold – Stem Cells, Shawn Dragon

Silver – Are You Dizzy Yet?, Sydney Smyslo

Bronze – Comment l’arsenic affecte les poissons ?, Joseph Curran

Grade 5 Science

Gold – Who has more Cooties?, Ella Skauge

Silver – Rock Solid Science, James Therrien

Bronze – Densite de la neige, Peter Staples and Quel type de materiaux te gardes au chaud le plus longtemps?, Chelsea Sieben

Overall Science Winners to present at the Canada-wide Science Fairin Fredricton, NB

Grade 8 – Brace Yourself, Riley Oldford,

Grade 10 – Physiognomy Retention, Hillary Huynh

Overall Heritage Winners to present at the Territorial Showcase in Yellowknife

Nellie McClung “Ne jamais sous-estimer le pouvoir d’une femme,” Annabella Churchill

Les panneaux glaces, Sadee Mitchell

Per Ardua Ad Astra: l’histoire de Avro Air, Effie Lockhartf

Healing with Herbs, Nico Morin

Les paralympiques, Chizuko Robson-Hamilton

Ma grand-mere: Alice Powless, Evelyn Powless

The RCMP, Axel Munro

Winner of the City of Yellowknife prize for Yellowknife Heritage

Les panneaux glaces, Sadee Mitchell

Source : Monique Marinier, committee chairperson of Foire regionale d’apprentissage de Yellowknife (Regional Learning Fair).

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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