Penticton students will test science frontiers on a national stage

Four Penticton students will represent Okanagan at Canada-Wide Science Fair

Penticton students Joshua Gowe

Penticton students Joshua Gowe

An aspiring pilot, astronomer and a pair of wannabe physicists from Penticton have all punched their tickets to a national science fair next month in P.E.I.

“It’s people from all over the country, so you know there’s going to be a lot of smart projects,” said Joshua Gowe, a 13-year-old Grade 7 student at KVR Middle School.

The budding physics teacher was one of the four locals who earned their stripes last week at a regional event in Kelowna.

Gowe’s project tested the theory that turning off incandescent light bulbs reduces a home’s energy bill. According to his research, however, the small amount of heat the bulbs give off can actually bring down your overall energy costs. Leaving upstairs lights on in an average house during the winter will lower your bill by about 10 cents a day, he said, because your furnace will run less.

Vincent Combret, 12, tested the dilatation of metals. In layman’s terms, dilatation refers to how much something stretches. He tested brass, copper and aluminum wires to see what metals are safest in airplanes, which expand and contract during flight due to temperature shifts.

Combret, who wants to be a pilot and is also a Grade 7 student at KVR, is looking forward to nationals, but, “I’m thinking already for next year.”

Meg Cumming and Breanna Gowe, both 14-year-old Grade 9 students at Penticton Secondary, teamed up on their project, An Iota of Colour on Io.

Using a telescope and computer, they observed how the colours visible on the surface of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, change as is rotates. No small feat, considering the closest Io comes to earth is about 6.2 million kilometres.

Breanna’s father is a physics teacher and amateur astronomer and piqued the pair’s interest in  planets. Neither knows of any other amateurs who have completed a similar set of observation of Io, although they hope their work can be useful in the larger sky-gazer community.

“We thought it would be a good way for amateur astronomers, if they saw a new planet, they could use our method to see how fast it rotates,” said Cumming, who’s considering a career as an astronomer.

The duo also went to nationals in Grade 7. Breanna, who is Joshua’s sister and wants to follow in her father’s career footsteps, said personal chemistry helps their chances.

“I think because we’re such good friends, we’re a good team when we’re presenting.”

Two Kelowna students will round out the Okanagan’s team at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, which goes May 13-18 at the University of P.E.I. in Charlottetown. The top 500 Canadian science students in Grades 7-12 are expected at the event, according to its website, where they will compete for scholarships totalling almost $1 million.