Annual science fair puts cool back into learning

Vancouver Island Science Fair attracts record number of students

University of Victoria graduate research student

There was the potato battery, the waist size experiment and a lava lamp how-to. But the big hit at the Vancouver Island Science Fair held at the University of Victoria was a working hovercraft.

Built by École Victor-Brodeur Grade 6 students Jacob Gronnestad and Maximillian Sonier, the one-metre wide duct-taped cardboard disc hooked up to a shop vac prompted a lineup of kids and adults waiting for a ride.

“Red Green would be proud,” said one man watching from the sidelines as the boys showed off their project which worked very well transporting visitors three metres across the hallway floor of the Elliott building where the fair was held.

It was a record year for science fair organizers with 220 students from Vancouver Island elementary, middle and secondary schools attending the two-day event on April 14 and 15. The Society for the Advancement of Young Scientists, organizers of the fair, president Randy Enkin said in the past when there’s been a teachers’ strike attendance has dropped below 100. “It took us five years to get back to 150,” said Enkin who’s been president for 12 years. He credits the popularity of TV shows such as Mythbusters for prompting kids’ renewed interest in science.

“The science fair really gives them a place to workshop their ideas, to figure out where their interests are, and to make them young scientists so they can go further,” said Enkin, whose own two sons took part in science fairs and are now studying science at university.

Gronnestad and Sonier first purchased a small model of the hovercraft from a downtown science store but then decided to build a larger version with a design they found on the Internet.

“We like it because it floats, it’s good transport, and it’s cool,” said Gronnestad.