Five P.E.I. students experiment with success at science fair

Published on April 18, 2017

Annie Lee MacDonald, president of the P.E.I. chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, and Daria Valkenburg, public relations and advocacy officer for the association, present the “Listen To This” Award to Mariana Reyes Mejia, of Parkdale Elementary School, during the 2017 P.E.I. Science Fair.

©Kelly Doiron/Special to The Guardian

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Mariana Reyes Mejia’s P.E.I. Science Fair project took shape in a big way this year.

So big, in fact, that the project, which was titled “Can Shapes Be Produced By Sound?”  earned the Grade 6 Parkdale Elementary School student the “Listen To This” Award, a specialty prize presented annually to a student whose project best demonstrates awareness of hearing loss and associated issues, in an effort to encourage young scientists in the making to consider issues of concern to the hard of hearing.

Mariana’s project tested whether one could actually see sound. It drew upon the principle of cymatics, which is the study of periodic and symmetrical patterns caused by vibrations. Using a PVC tube and pipe, with a balloon for a membrane that went over the tube, she poured salt onto the balloon. She then made various sounds over the other end of the tube. With sound, the balloon vibrated, and the salt formed different shapes. To her delight, she was able to prove that shapes could be produced by sound.

“I discovered that the best frequency for seeing shapes was at higher sound frequencies,” says Mariana.

Her project is actually a simplified version of modern pocket talkers, technological tools to help amplify sound for the hard of hearing. They have a tone function in which sound can be altered to resonate at a higher or lower frequency, depending on the hearing loss one has. Mariana found that shapes were best seen at higher sound frequencies.  Similarly, changes in frequency can make hearing more audible.

Since hearing loss is an important issue, with lots of potential for innovative scientific studies, and Mariana’s project could be enlarged upon and studied further.

Mariana was one of more than 270 young scientists from 32 Island schools who presented 196 science projects at the 2017 P.E.I. Science Fair. More than $15,000 in prizes was given out at the conclusion of the one-day event at UPEI. The day featured project presentations to members of the general public, other students and around 100 volunteer judges. 

In the end, five students from Grades 7-12 were selected to attend the Canadawide Science Fair in Regina, Sask., in May, where more than $1 million in prizes and scholarships will be awarded. They include: Salma McCallum, a Grade 8 student from Queen Charlotte Intermediate; Siddharth Arora, a Grade 8 student from Stonepark Intermediate; Lahari Bandi, a Grade 7 student from Queen Charlotte; Fiona Nicholson, a Grade 10 student from Bluefield; and Ahnais Young, a Grade 9 student from East Wiltshire Intermediate. 

Also honoured

Long-time P.E.I. Science Fair volunteer and East Wiltshire teacher Lise Deveau was given a Distinguished Service Award by Youth Science Canada, a national charitable organization that organizes the Canadawide Science Fair. The honour is given to an outstanding contribution through innovation, long service or leadership, to the organization or its programs at any level. Deveau is the third recipient from P.E.I. since 1985.

The P.E.I. team heading to the Canadawide Science Fair will be made up of, from left, Fiona Nicholson, Ahnais Young, Salma McCallum, Siddharth Arora and Lahari Bandi.

©Submitted photo