Science fair winners off to nationals in New Brunswick

Ashton Tanchuk and Nathan Nesbitt are heading to science fair nationals later this year. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Two students looking at ways to improve our water are off to nationals in New Brunswick after winning the regional science fair held in Prince Albert Tuesday.

Nathan Nesbitt of Christopher lake and Ashton Tanchuk of Shellbrook were selected as the winners who will go on to compete nationally. Nesbitt looked at the effectiveness of reef-safe sunscreen, while Tanchuk examined the effectiveness of the mineral olivine in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the water.

The pair were selected out of 22 projects from various Saskatchewan Rivers School Division schools. Twenty judges, as well as parents and other community members,  viewed the projects over the course of the day.

Nesbitt drew inspiration from a family vacation.

“My mom said we had to change which kinds of sunscreens we were using,” he said.

‘I found out that Hawaii and a couple of other states and countries were banning sunscreens containing reef-harming chemicals.”

Nesbitt decided to test whether reef-safe sunscreens were as effective as conventional products.

“Reef-safe, according to my experiment, was more effective than conventional sunscreen,” he said.

Tanchuk, meanwhile, entered the science fair last year with a project looking at the impact of oil spills on water ecosystems. This year, he decided to continue along the same theme but looking at CO2.

“I found that olivine helps to clean up carbon dioxide from waters. I knew it was going to help, but I didn’t think it would help as much as it actually did.”

Tanchuk said he didn’t expect to win but was “happy” when his name was called.

Nesbitt was similarly surprised.

“I had no idea this would be a national-worthy project,” he said. “Wow.”

According to Neru Franc, who has been helping to organize the regional science fair for the last seven years, projects are judged on how they tackle a global issue and on how much they can still be developed.

“We narrowed it down to the two we knew could expand their project and answer the one question — how will this one project help to improve the world in the future,” she said.

“The students blow me away every year. They are our future. That’s the whole reason we keep this science fair going, so these kids that are our future can answer these questions for us. We need these kids to have those critical thinking skills and that innovation, fire and passion to do the things that matter.”

For Nesbitt and Tanchuk, the next step is to go back and refine their projects before they travel to the east coast for nationals.

Tanchuk said he will continue to refine his experiment, while Nesbitt said he hopes to expand his testing to include more people and a wider array of skin types.