Last April 10 -12, 2010, I participated in the 49th Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair held at the University of Victoria. The Science Fair is for children in grades 4 to 12. To participate, you must submit a description of an experiment you have conducted, an invention you have created, or a science-related study that you have done. On the first day, you go to the Elliot Lecture Wing at UVic and set up your exhibit. Afterwards, judges go around to the particular exhibits they are assigned to evaluate. You present your project to the judges, and then they ask you questions. When the interview is finished, the judges sign your “Judge Sheet.” School tours and the public come and view your project the following day and on the last day of the fair. The awards ceremony is also held on the last day in the MacLauren Building. Practically almost every participant receives some type of award. It is very exciting and you can feel the anticipation in the air.
My project was called Fire and Ice: Electricity for an Emergency. The objective of my experiment was to invent a device that would produce electricity efficiently by using common household items. I thought of using thermoelectricity – that is, when two dissimilar metals are joined, and one side of the metal is cooled while the other is heated, electricity is generated! This is called the Seebeck Effect discovered by Thomas Seebeck in 1821. I also read about the Peltier Effect, which was the reverse of the Seebeck Effect.
The Peltier Effect says that when a current is passed through a junction of two different metals, a temperature difference is produced. Peltier devices are available and are used in electric coolers, available even from Canadian Tire. So I made my thermal generator using Peltier tiles, a heating platform, and a candle. After much trial and error, I got over 3 volts, and enough electricity to power a radio for a couple of hours, all from a small candle. However, since my generator worked on a temperature difference, I thought that perhaps the difference between the air in the room and something cold like ice packs might also work. So I turned my generator upside down and placed a pack of ice on the heating platform, and voila, it also worked!
My project won five awards:
- First Place in the Intermediate (Grade 6 and 7) Category
- The BC Science Teachers’ Association Award
- The B.C. Hydro – South Island Office Award
- A one-year subscription to “Yes” Magazine
- The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, Victoria Branch Award
I would like to encourage all young mad scientists and crazy innovators to participate in next year’s Science Fair. Sadly, I was the only SMUS participant this year, although many other children from public and private schools participated. The prizes in the higher levels include monetary awards, as well as UVic scholarships. The top seven projects in the older categories go to the Canada Wide Science Fair! The Science Fair really made me work and think, and believe me, I learned a lot!
To learn more about the Science Fair, visit their website. Next year, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Science Fair, so be sure to come and join!