First Nation students show off science projects at University of Manitoba

The 13th annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, which began Wednesday at the University of Manitoba, aims to inspire students to become engaged in the sciences.
The 13th annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, which began Wednesday at the University of Manitoba, aims to inspire students to become engaged in the sciences. 2:05

Nine-year-old Georgia Campbell from the Ebb and Flow First Nation has big dreams when she grows up: she wants to cure cancer. 

But first, she's making plastic milk.

"First we have to heat up the milk, then we have to pour it in there and put a bit of vinegar in it," she explained.

"Then we have to strain it into another container and then what is left behind is a really gooey thing. You should feel it."

The Grade 4 student never thought mixing those two things would turn into the thing she discovered.

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      "It was amazing. When we were stirring it, it was like a chemical reaction happening," Campbell said. "I'm like, how in the world does that happen?!"

      She wants to work with chemicals when she grows up and is determined to find a cure for cancer.

      "I'm not like those people who worry about themselves; I worry about other people too," she said. "I care for other people."

      That's what the 13th annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair is for  to inspire students to become engaged in the sciences.

      Rudy Subedar of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre said Georgia Campbell is on the right track: first, she becomes aware of the sciences, shows an interest in the field, and she believes that she can do it. That is how a scientist is born.

      "That is the effect of this program — it becomes part of their dialogue and part of their thinking," Subedar said.

      Scientific surprises

      High school students Tanner Roulette and Jewel Assiniboine from the Sandy Bay First Nation have made a surprising discovery.

      Their project is called Water Quality and Duckweed. The point was to see if the aquatic plant can tell the quality of the water that it is growing in.

      "It is important to me because I wanted to know how these plants grow and how they live," Roulette said.

      They added various different substances to duckweed in tap water and aquarium water. They tried oil, vinegar, bleach, and fertilizer.

      Their findings were unexpected. They found the fertilizer killed the duckweed while the bleach multiplied it.

      "I just expected differently. I thought bleach would kill it and fertilizer would help it grow, but it was the opposite," Roulette said.

      "The fertilizer killed it more than bleach did; bleach made it multiply when you add it in the duckweed."

      Roulette said science is an inspiration to him, especially the unexpected results.

      "I don't think anyone would know anything without science. Science is what got all of us to know things. Science is our only answer to everything." Roulette said.

      More than 400 students from 35 First Nations across Manitoba are taking part in this year's Manitoba First Nations Science Fair.

      On Wednesday, they set up their displays, then on Thursday there will be the judging and the awards ceremony.

      The students are competing for gold, silver and bronze medallions in excellence in science, as well as a chance to represent Manitoba at a national science fair.

      Some other displays include a mouse trap-powered car and projects highlighting optical illusions, water sediment and mould growth.