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Holy Heart student takes home national science award for neurosurgical invention

18-year-old Nora Boone won the gold award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair

Nora Boone

Nora Boone won the $1,000 and gold medal prize at the Youth Can Innovate awards. (Submitted)

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Nora Boone, a student at Holy Heart High School in St. John's, is taking home a gold prize in science.

She won the $1,000 and gold medal prize at the Youth Can Innovate award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, a Canada-wide science fair held in Regina, Sask., for her design of a tool to help rural areas treat head traumas.

'I was trying to come up with a solution to that problem in our province and in many rural communities in Canada.' - Nora Boone

"In our province we only have one trauma centre in St. John's, but there are many people, who if they have a head injury, may not have access to a trauma centre or a neurosurgeon," she said.

The tool is designed to perform emergency craniotomies in rural areas when intracranial hematomas do not allow transfer time to neurosurgical care in a larger centre.

If a hematoma is left untreated, intracranial pressure will continue to fatally increase.

"I was trying to come up with a solution to that problem in our province and in many rural communities in Canada or across the world," said Boone, 18.

3D printing technology

The soon-to-be high school graduate developed the simulation tool for rural surgeons using 3D printing technology.

She worked with Memorial University medical students in their 3D laboratory to create the high-tech, prize-winning model.

The model was created through testing different densities of materials to determine what would best simulate the properties of the cranium.

Nora Boone

Boone is planning a future in medicine and will begin her undergrad in medical science in the fall. (Submitted)

"I was working with Dr. [Roger] Avery who is a local neurosurgeon in St. John's and he was able to provide me with some information about the procedure itself, and also what anatomy and what components should be incorporated into the simulation tool," Boone said.

The Youth Can Innovate awards are designed to encourage and support Canadian students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

'So many students doing amazing work'

Boone said she found it inspiring how many other young people she was competing against.

"There were so many students doing amazing work, it's pretty inspiring and cool just learning what students around the country are working on," she said.

When Boone returns home, she plans to begin refining her model and making more of them, while also planning her own future in medicine.

"I am doing medical science as an undergrad, so I'll be starting that in the fall, and I guess we'll see after that what happens," she said.

More than 440 STEM students from schools across Canada presented 390 projects at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Youth Can Innovate Awards, with a total cash value of $41,000, are offered to students competing at Canada's annual national science fair.

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