The easy part of Charley Smith’s science fair project was figuring out how to use wood pellets to power an internal combustion engine; the hard part was explaining how he did it.
“I didn’t know if the judges understood. That’s what made me nervous,” Smith, a 13-year-old Penticton student, said Friday while awaiting results at the Central Okanagan Regional Science Fair.
It seems the judges understood just fine, as Smith, along with three other Penticton students, were awarded gold medals that earned them the right to represent the region at the Canada-Wide Science Fair next month in Lethbridge, Alta.
Smith’s project uses an electric stove element to heat wood pellets to 93 C, at which point a flammable gas is released and funnelled into the air intake of a small engine that was built to run on gasoline.
The McNicoll Park Middle School student noted the concept is in use commercially to generate electricity, but said he was just looking for a gasoline alternative to fuel his go-kart.
“I’m trying to make something that’s efficient, that’s cheap to run, so I found this,” he said, adding his parents helped him come up with $300 for parts.
Joining Smith in Alberta will be Jessica Broder, a KVR Middle School student whose project aimed to find out how people’s gender, age and senses affect their ability to taste foods.
“When you eat something, your brain pre-thinks about what you’re eating before you actually eat it. For example, if you eat an apple, you pre-think about if you like apples, the type of apple, if it’s juicy, and all that,” said Broder, 13.
“I found out that each time I added another sense, (your taste) improves by 19 to 22 per cent and you need everything to be able to taste properly. You need the consistency, the texture, the colour, the smell, everything.”
Fellow KVR students Garrett Cruickshank and Keaton Woods, who teamed up for a project on distracted driving, were the other gold medalists who earned a spot in the national fair.
A total of 66 entries from 77 students in Grades 6-10 were featured last week at the regional fair, which was staged at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland. Contestants represented public and private schools from Kelowna south down the valley.
Other local winners included:
Silver medals: Rylan van der Meulen and Winter Frizzell (Summerland Middle School), Ryann Buckingham (KVR).
Bronze medals: Sophie Taylor and Madeline MacIntosh (KVR); Trista Algar and Sophie Cormillot (SMS); Brett Wilson (SMS); Luc Benoit (SMS); Danny Grant (SMS); Emma Russill (SMS); Sylvia Mott (Summerland Secondary School).
Backdrop awards: Alyse Kohler Mergel (Skaha Lake Middle School); Chloe Knowles (SMS) Sophie Taylor and Madeline MacIntosh (KVR); John Nemes (ConnectEd).
Special awards: Sophie Taylor and Madeline MacIntosh (KVR), B.C. Innovation Council Young Scientists Award; Sylvia Mott (SSS), BCIC Student Award; Raja Gupta (SSS), BCIC Teacher Award; Jessica Broder (KVR), B.C. Science Teachers’ Award.