Merritt students did “exceedingly well” at the Cariboo-Mainline Regional Science Fair in mid-April at Thompson Rivers University, in the words of Nicola-Canford Elementary School Principal and science fair co-ordinator Burt Bergmann. The two-day fair brought 175 students from four school districts in the region to present their projects to a panel of judges.

“We brought 40 kids, and 75 per cent of our kids either came back with a gold, silver or bronze medal,” Bergman said. “It’s very, very impressive to do that well.”

Bergmann said although School District 58 is small, its students typically do very well at the science fair, thanks to a combination of teachers’ passion for the projects and parents getting excited, becoming involved, and supporting their children.

“There were 24 trophies or awards available, and our district won 54 per cent of them (13 of the 24), which is also very impressive. Some of them are cash awards, some are trophies that go to the school, and we won over half of the ones that were available for the almost 200 kids who were there,” Bergmann said. “This year was one of our best years.”

It was the first year that students from Merritt Bench Elementary School participated in the fair, and four of the school’s students said it was something they would like to do again. Grade 5 student Olivia Schmid tested different additives to soil to see which promoted plant growth the best. Between the ash, epsom salts, Miracle-Gro and compost she tested, it was the local Good Earth Company’s compost that came out on top.

Grade 6 student Gillian Moore said her project showed that people who play video games had slightly faster reaction times than people who don’t.

“The gamers had a better reaction time, not by much though. They were really close,” she said, adding that it was only about a 20 millisecond difference.

Grade 7 student Morgan Hepper found that people who are related have some similarities in their fingerprints. Hepper fingerprinted other students at Bench, comparing fingerprint similarity of siblings, half-siblings and people who aren’t related.

Olivia Boven, Grade 6, explored after-images in the human eye.

“I found out that the longer you stare at the image, the longer the after-image is, and that they come in complimentary colours,” she said.

The girls said they saw all kinds of other projects and presentations at the science fair, from a video game on Ancient Egypt to a presentation on respiration therapy for people with sleep apnoea, and that a tour of the TRU science buildings was a highlight.

Of the five students selected from regionals to go to nationals in Lethbridge, Alta., three are SD58 students who’ve been adding to and building on their projects for years: Merritt Secondary School Grade 11 student Mackenzie Finch, Collettville Elementary’s Cassidy O’Flaherty, and Bergmann’s 14-year-old son Noah, who attends South Central Interior Distance Education School. The three also won numerous scholarships and trophies between them, including Finch’s $2,000 BCIC Young Innovator Scholarship.