CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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June 2017
 
 

Canada-Wide Science Fair

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By John Dark, FCIA
Secretary-Treasurer

This year’s Canada-Wide Science Fair took place at the University of Regina. Over 440 grade 8–12 high school students from coast to coast to coast took part in over a week’s activities centred at the university’s athletic complex.

The Actuarial Foundation of Canada (AFC) sponsors a special interdisciplinary award in each of the classes—junior, intermediate, and senior—given to outstanding projects that demonstrate effective use of mathematics, database manipulation, and statistical analysis in investigating or solving complex problems.

Judging Science Fair Projects

This year I was asked to represent the AFC as the coordinator of the junior award and the chair of the judging panel. It was easy to say yes to such a request; my employer encourages us to make use of our volunteer days in educational pursuits and the university is 10 minutes from the office—how hard can judging a high school science fair be?

Well, I was in for a big surprise!  My judging assignment covered a day and a half, including a four-hour orientation. There were over 440 individual exhibits. The organization of the event itself was extraordinarily professional and went off without a hitch. One problem for me, of course, was that most of the projects turned out to be way over my head! Any concerns about the future of our country and the role of science in it were quickly dispelled when I entered the auditorium for the judges-only tour.

Diverse and Sophisticated Projects

Robotics, medicine, psychology, economics, physiotherapy, chemistry, biology, physics, medicine, computing—you name it—were all there in spades.  As well, there were many projects dealing with various aspects of the student’s heritage—one young man from Saskatchewan’s north conducted a very thorough experiment on the role of traditional healing; specifically, powdered beaver genitals in reducing warts and healing skin lesions. Others took lessons from their daily lives—two young girls lost a grandmother to cancer so they launched an experiment to link fingerprint patterns to a predisposition for the disease. They found about a 35 percent correlation in their community of 235 people.  Another young girl studied the psychology of horses’ willingness to take medication as influenced by the colour, size, and shape of the bucket in which their feed was placed. There was no limit on the imagination of these young scientists.

Each of the projects was meticulously documented with a five-page abstract including extensive bibliographies. A standard booth with tri-fold display panels allowed students to present their hypothesis, methodology, theory, and conclusions. It was impossible not to be extraordinarily impressed with their efforts.

The Winners Are . . .

A group of 340 judges volunteered their time to review these projects. The special awards section took place in the afternoon of May 16 and involved 10-minute interviews with each of our assigned projects by up to four judges.

In the case of the Junior AFC award, it took three rounds of judging to determine the winners. Our panel included me, four university professors, two retired physics teachers, and a newly qualified helicopter pilot from CFB Moose Jaw. Fortunately, he was French-speaking as our Junior Gold award (see below) went to a francophone student.

The senior award went to a Windsor, Ontario student for a project called “A Novel Computational Tool to Advance Ferromagnetic NanoTherapy to Cure Cancer” which used an interactive mathematical model and computational fluid dynamics simulations.

The intermediate award winner hailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia with an “automotive collision detection network” project. This centralized system would detect automotive vehicle accidents in real time and speed-up 911 response times.

Our junior winner, a student from Québec City, created software for generating realistic three-dimensional columns in the Spanish Gaudí architectural style.

All in all, this was a very satisfactory assignment and very inspiring. The Canada-Wide Science Fair travels to different cities every year. If you have a chance to become a judge, take the opportunity. It is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

John Dark, FCIA, is the CIA Secretary-Treasurer.

 

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