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Young scientists bound for Ottawa

Article and photos by Jared Story

A trio of Grant Park High School geniuses are taking their great ideas to the nation’s capital.  

Grade 12 student Jacob Harvey and Grade 8 students Mark Yanovski and Lev Hochman will participate in the Canada-Wide Science Fair – May 12 to 19 in Ottawa – showcasing their projects alongside 500 student scientists from across the country.

Harvey, Yanovski and Hochman punched their tickets to Ottawa after winning at the Winnipeg Schools’ Science Fair on April 11 at the University of Manitoba’s Brodie Centre.

Harvey won Most Outstanding Senior Project for his project Plastic to Bioplastic: Polyethylene Terephthalate Upcycling. Harvey has been researching PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) in the U of M’s Biosystems Engineering lab for the last four years.

Science Fair 2018 Jacob Harvey.jpg

“PHAs are basically biodegradable plastics. They have similar properties to conventional petroleum-based plastics but they’re biodegradable,” Harvey said.

“My research has been aimed generally at reducing that cost, looking at making these plastics more commercially viable so they can actually replace conventional plastics. This year was aimed specifically at seeing if this specific bacterium, which is what produces these PHAs, would be able to take plastic waste and be able to convert it into this biodegradable plastic.”

“With this project you’re basically looking at bioremediation. It’s one thing to get rid of the plastic that is currently out there and it’s another thing to come up with a replacement, but if you can do both at once, that is even better.”

Yanovski and Hochman won Most Outstanding Junior Project for their project, Wound Infection, Thermal Detection.

Science Fair 2018 Most Outstanding Junior.jpg

“Our project was about detecting whether thermal images can detect infections at a faster rate than standardized methods,” Yanovski said.

“Heat, due to the increased amount of blood flow to an injury, can be visualized. It’s one of the first symptoms actually,” Hochman said.

“If we could utilize that it would allow for quicker treatment and diagnosis, which would mean many benefits for the hospital, like reduced cost of care, reduced patient stay, clearing more space for the hospital, allowing for more efficiency and more people to be treated, and of course earlier treatment preventing diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis, and finally for the patient to be sent home to their families.”

In addition to the Canada-Wide Science Fair, Harvey will be competing in the Sanofi Biogenius Canada National Competition, May 7 to 9 in Toronto.

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