Bluewater District School Board

Bluewater's OSDSS Student Innovates for the Environment page

OSDSS Student Innovates for the Environment

OSDSS Student Innovates for the Environment
Posted on 05/12/2021
Islay works on project at the beachGlobal warming brings to the forefront a vast number of concerns, such as the endangerment of species, declining air quality, and a rising number of natural disasters.  Islay Graham, a student at Owen Sound District Secondary School, has shown that she recognizes the importance of addressing these issues.  Through the Bluewater Regional Science and Technology Fair, she has studied the comparison between organic and non-organic food, the microfibers in laundry water, the plight of the piping plover, and repurposing waste heat.  These projects have earned Islay two silver medals, three gold medals, and Best of Fair three times in a row at the regional level.  Last year, her project received national recognition for Best Junior Project in Canada.  This young and upcoming scientist is truly proving her competency and ingenuity in combatting problems with environmental implications.

Islay developed an early interest in science when tagging along with her older siblings for the public viewing of their science fair projects.  She has been competing in the regional fair since Grade 4.  In 2016, she presented her first project, “Organic vs. Non-Organic”, which earned her a silver medal and the Nutrition Award, sponsored by the Grey Bruce Health Unit.  Islay explained that this project focused on “the comparison of sugar contents in organic and non-organic vegetables and fruits using a Brix tester.”  The following year, her project, “Vitamin C Baby Food”, involved using testing strips to determine the quantities of vitamin C in organic and non-organic baby food.”

In 2018, Islay explored the ramifications of microfibers from laundry water.  This included developing a filtration system that could attach to a washing machine to prevent microfibers from reaching our drinking water in a project called, “Stop Drinking Your Laundry: A Microfiber Pollution Solution”.  Microfibers detach from clothes when washed, posing a threat to water sanitation because they are simply too small to be filtered from water in treatment plants.  This project earned Islay her first gold medal and the Best of Fair Award.

After joining the Plover Lovers, a group of volunteers who contribute their time to support the endangered piping plovers, and doing some research with Trent University on the insects and invertebrates that plovers eat, Islay found the inspiration for her next project.  Entitled, “Rake Wrack Risk”, the project explored the implications of removing debris from beaches where these birds live.  Aside from receiving the Best of Fair Award at the local level, Islay received a special award from the Owen Sound Field Naturalists.  This was followed by a chance to present her project at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, New Brunswick alongside 500+ students from across the country.  At this national event, she received a Platinum award for the Best Junior Project in Canada, the Environmental Challenge Award, the Youth Can Innovate Award, and an invitation to present her project at the 2020 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) in Anaheim, California, held virtually due to COVID-19.

Islay stands with Canada-Wide Science Fair official after receiving award After Islay’s incredible accomplishments, she was interviewed by a number of news stations, including CBC and CTV.  She presented her work to over a dozen university and environmental organizations, participated in scientific studies led by researchers, and had her work featured in an article by Birds Canada. 

For Islay, one of the highlights of her experiences occurred recently when she spent an hour on Zoom presenting her findings in the presence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francoise-Philippe Champagne, the government’s Chief Science Advisor Dr. Mona Nemer, and members of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The presentation is available at the 37:50 mark by visiting this YouTube link

In 2020, Islay received the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award from the Ontario Community Newspaper Association due to her success at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and her dedication to the Plover Lovers and other volunteer groups.  This award was presented virtually by Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Recently, she watched the documentary, Resilience-A Climate Change Film of Hope, which inspired her to find a method of decreasing waste heat.  Her current innovation project, “The DL-T Sandwich EX-25”, investigates prime sources of waste heat from homes and transforms them into usable electrical energy by working with thermoelectric generators.  According to Islay, her three main goals were to create a prototype that could produce substantial energy (at least five volts), be affordable (the majority of the project is cost-effective and even made from recycled materials), and sustainable (maintaining five volts for at least five minutes).”

This project was presented virtually at this year's regional senior science fair and resulted in Islay's third gold medal, a Persistence in Innovation Award, the Best of Fair Award, and an opportunity to attend the national fair for the second time.  In preparation for the Canada-wide event, Islay has four mentors who are working with her and five other students, who will all become part of Team Bluewater, representing Bruce and Grey counties.

Overall, Islay said that “science fair is an amazing experience that I would encourage more students to attempt!  I know the experience has impacted enormously my educational and social experiences.  In many ways, it has been life-changing!”

Islay kneeling next to painted design of piping plover at beachIslay works outdoors on project with clipboard and materialsIslay stands in front of her science fair display, "The DL-T Sandwich: A Prototype to Eat Waste Heat"
Islay holds up a certificate with science fair official in front of her piping plovers display Islay's "Rake Wrack Risk" science fair informational display Islay works with drill to construct project

Submitted by: Avryl Bender, JDSS student
Bluewater District School Board is located on the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which is represented by the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.
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