Two Swift Current Comprehensive High School students had the chance to compete at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) last month.

Grade 10 student Vaishu Venkata and Grade 11 student Mapalo Mushoriwa represented the Chinook School Division at the six-day event in Edmonton from May 14 to May 19.

Venkata's project, which consisted of coding an app that aims to prevent childhood obesity, won an Excellence Award (silver medal) in the intermediate category (for grade nine and 10 students). She also received scholarships for Western University ($2,000) and the University of Alberta ($3,500). 

"It felt like an accomplishment because it was people across Canada recognizing my contribution to science," she said. "All the work and effort I put into my project was actually going somewhere." 

Vaishu_VenkataVenkata with her medal from nationals. (photo by David Zammit)

She spent about three to three and a half months developing the app that included multiple prototypes. The project also scored her a second-place finish at the Chinook Regional Science Fair.

"It provides kids with early health education and tools so they can actually understand and take independence in their health," she explained. 

"I looked at current solutions [for] childhood obesity and there aren't really solutions for primary prevention, which is preventing it before it happens," she said was one of the main reasons she picked this idea. "I wanted to find a way to actually provide kids with early health tools and education and not just giving them the education but actually them being able to track their health and understand it."  

VenkataVenkata with her project. (photo courtesy of Dawn Caswell)

Venkata is hoping to launch the app on the app store in the future but believes it will take a year to learn the proper coding and then another year to receive a patent for it.

Mushoriwa, who won first place at the Chinook Regional Science Fair, competed against around 120 students in the senior division for grades 11 and 12 students. Although she didn't come away with a medal at CWSF, the trip was well worth it.

"I still learned a lot and got some inspiration for next year," she said. 

"It was really fun meeting new people and building relationships with people from all over Canada. Also going to the TELUS World of Science or the University of Alberta... Definitely, the entire experience was so worth it."  

Mapalo_MushoriwaMushoriwa with her regional medal. (photo by David Zammit)

Her project had her working with the Swift Current Research and Development Centre to investigate DNA preservation using fruit.

"I extracted DNA from a strawberry and then tested different temperature and storage solutions to determine what method of storage best preserves and maintains good quality of DNA," she said. "My results actually showed my dry sample held in 21 C had the best quality."

The work wasn't done there as she reached out to several people about her project to share her findings. One of those was a doctor at the University of Arizona. 

"Just telling him about my experiment," she said. "And seeing if he could give me some professional insight in a different field of work that wasn't agriculture."   

Mushoriwa is done with the project for now but could see herself picking it back up in the future.

MushoriwMushoriwa with her project. (photo courtesy of Dawn Caswell)

"Forensics and bio-chemistry is something I want to do for the rest of my life so looking into that in university and so that will definitely be happening," she said.   

Next year will be her final year of eligibility for the CWSF and she isn't wasting any time. She already has a plan and project idea in place and has developed another contact at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre that has some pedigree. 

"He has mentored a couple of medalists at CWSF," she said.