Science fair winners off to Ottawa

Emily Zbaraschuk and Holden Willoughby will compete in the national science fair competition in Ottawa. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Research into treatments for fusarium head blight and work improving the fuel economy of a two-stroke engine has resulted in two Prince Albert area youth qualifying for a national science fair in Ottawa.

The top projects from Saskatchewan Rivers School Division students from across the region went head to head at Saskatchewan Polytechnic Thursday. While there were several standouts, two students were singled out to represent the school division in Ottawa.

For one of those students, it will be a second chance at winning a coveted gold medal.

Emily Zbaraschuk went to nationals in Montreal last year with a project looking at how music affects learning. This year, she took a look at a disease found in wheat crops that can be devastating for farmers.

“I looked at a disease called fusarium head blight, and it affects wheat. The disease causes toxins to build up in the wheat, so I looked at different treatments, such as fungicide, copper and humic acid to see if there was any effect or reduce the disease,” she said.

The Grade 8 Meath Park student heard about fusarium from her father. In 2016, it appeared in record levels.

“I decided to research the disease, and from there, decided to do this project.”

She’s looking forward to returning to nationals.

“It’s really exciting. I’m really excited for the experience. Last time I went it was one of the best weeks of my life. I guess I get to have another best week of my life.”

While Zbaraschuk is heading to nationals for the second consecutive year, the area’s other representative is making his first appearance at the competition.

Holden Willoughby was chosen for his project looking to improve on a two-stroke engine.

“The engine got a bad name because of its fuel economy,” the Shellbrook student said “I wanted to change that, because there are so many good things about the two-stroke It has amazing power for its size, and it outperforms the four-stroke in every way, except fuel economy.”

Willoughby didn’t expect a science fair project would take this far, but he’s happy with the opportunity.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I never would have thought I would be going to nationals with my little project.”

Thursday’s event for Saskatchewan Rivers School Division students was attended by a man who knows a whole lot about science fairs. Jim Langen works for the Saskatchewan Association of Science Fairs. He goes to science fairs across the province and sees the value in the scientific discovery.

“For 16 years I’ve been doing this work. Every year I get to go to 12 science fairs just like your sand see the tremendous work being done,” he told the students.

‘Every year I’m floored by the level of creativity, innovation and knowledge you people exhibit when you put your exhibits on the floor. Each time you do this, you’re adding to the body of work done by scientists throughout the world in every different area of science there is.”

Langen spoke about his daughter, who recently graduated from a university in the Netherlands with a PhD.

“She started just like you did, with a project at a science fair in Calgary,” he said.

“I want to congratulate you and your parents, for taking the opportunity and for giving you the opportunity to do this kind of work. The rewards you will achieve are endless. Where it takes you? No one knows. Congratulations.”