Chewing tobacco project nets top prize at Nunavut science fair
Jordan Takkiruq steps up his game for Kitikmeot regional fair
Special to Nunatsiaq News
CAMBRIDGE BAY — Looking at Jordan Takkiruq’s science project, you might be surprised to find out he’s only a Grade 8 student.
For his project, the 13-year-old from Gjoa Haven created an elaborate experiment to discover the impact of chewing tobacco on teeth.
“I surveyed everyone in my school. I asked 107 people seven questions about their involvement with chewing tobacco,” said Takkiruq. “The result was that I found out the worst brand of chewing tobacco for your teeth.”
That diligent work, which took him more than two months to complete, won him first place at the Kitikmeot Regional Science Fair in Cambridge Bay and the grand prize of a brand new iPad mini.
“It feels amazing,” Takkiruq said.
The regional science fair, which took place in Cambridge Bay last weekend, is an annual event that brings together Grade 7 to 12 students from western Nunavut. The public got a chance to see entries on March 21 and the winners were announced March 22.
This year, participants came from Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk and Cambridge Bay.
“For the past two years we’ve conducted the science fair through phone conferences and Skype, but this is the first year we’ve brought all of the students together,” said Lauren Leblanc, the regional co-chair for the event. “It’s exciting and I’m excited for the kids to get to see each other’s projects.”
Project topics this year ranged from heating an igloo to egg substitutes for baking, sour taste preferences based on age, qulliq oils, seal blubber properties and the expiry dates of make-up.
“I’m proud of all the projects themselves,” said Leblanc “Looking at the topics here, I can see they’re all very applicable to the North.”
But northern relevance is only one of the criteria for a winning project.
The students were also graded on presentation skills, scientific thought, bilingualism and the design and creativity of their homemade boards and posters.
“The more experience with science fairs they have, the better their projects become,” said Hugo Camato, one of five contest judges.
“Their scientific curiosity makes a huge difference too. I was very impressed with [Jordan’s] ability to present his information in front of the public.”
That’s because this isn’t the first time these projects have been judged.
“Students like Jordan [Takkiruq] attended the Canada Wide Science Fair last year in Windsor, Ontario,” said Leblanc. “He definitely learned a lot. He got to see what was expected at that high level and has really pushed it up a lot.”
That fair is held every May in a different Canadian city, with Fredericton due to host the event this year.
And that’s not the only opportunity for these high school students to show off their science savvy.
In August 2014, four students from Nunavut traveled to Prince Edward Island to participate in the Canadian National Aboriginal Science Camp.
“It’s good that these opportunities exist for these kids,” said Jordan McFadden, one of the science fair’s coordinators. “Not all communities have local science fairs to showcase the kids’ projects.”
Each Kitikmeot community was eligible to send four students to Cambridge Bay fair this year.
“There was close to 40 projects at the science fair in Taloyoak,” said McFadden, a teacher at Netsilik Ilihakvik school. “We brought four and each kid who made it to the regional fair has put in a lot of extra work outside of the classroom.”
Travel costs were covered by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the Government of Canada, organizers said.
As an added bonus, students who travelled to Cambridge Bay for the fair got to participate in science experiments organized by the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.
On March 21, Presley Taylor from CHARS helped the students build bottle rockets and the following day, Camato, who works for the Montreal-based Mad Science, taught students how to build mini-freezers and how to keep heavy objects afloat.
“It’s nice to see kids from different communities with similar interests get together,” said McFadden. “That’s my favourite part.”
For some students, the best part was the science itself, and the joy that comes from learning new things.
“I like working really hard and I like science,” said Breanna Mannilaq, a grade 7 student from Taloyoak. “My favourite part of this weekend is all the experiments.”
After Takkiruq, second place went to partners Romanie Kayaksak and Monica Kayasark; third place went to partners Hayley and Melanie Totalik; and fourth place went to Alaira Sallerina.
Each participant won a backpack and a certificate of science from the KIA.