Local science whiz goes international

Mount Baker student Keltie Murdoch, mentor Sandi Lavery off to Taiwan

Sandi Lavery in the foreground and Keltie Murdoch standing in the crowd at the Science Fair Foundation BC Innovation Exploration gathering at the Museum of Anthropology on October 26.

There isn’t a science fair in the world that can slow down Mount Baker Secondary School student Keltie Murdoch.

The Grade 12 student has taken on yet another hurdle – and cleared it – after being accepted out of 30 students across B.C. to attend the Taiwan International Science Fair in February 2013.

“I am really looking forward to the experience of sharing my ideas with professionals and peers from all over the world, and hearing about what they’re working on, or developing,”  the East Kootenay Regional Science Fair (EKRSF) alum told the Townsman.

The B.C. team that will head to Taiwan was announced on October 26 at the Science Fair Foundation of BC (SFF BC) Innovation Exploration gathering at the University of B.C.’s Museum of Anthropology. Keltie will be joined by Grade 10 student Kevala Von Volkenburg on Fort St. John on the trip.

“I feel very lucky to have been chosen. I know that each of the students that applied had just as much of a chance as I did,” Keltie said. “I am not sure what sets me apart from the other applicants, but I am prepared to take on the task of representing Canada in Taiwan.”

But Keltie isn’t the only Cranbrook resident heading to Asia to represent her country. Her very own mentor and College of the Rockies program co-ordinator and instructor Sandi Lavery was chosen as the educator to accompany the B.C. pair.

Sandi said the last time an educator was chosen from this area was in 2003 when Judy Gadick from Creston traveled with students from Vancouver and Haida Gwaii.

Darcy Verbeurgt, chair of the EKRSF, said the Taiwan fair welcomes students from the Pacific Rim, meaning Mexico, Chile, the U.S. and B.C. in the Americas. Each country selects two representatives out of their top students that exemplify innovation and creativity.

“If you boil it down to the number of people who participate in fairs in B.C. every year, it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s the cream de la cream.”

Both Keltie and Sandi may be going to the same event, but both will have very different experiences. Keltie will room with a homestay family and attend the fair, while Sandi will meet with the 18 other delegates and tour science facilities in Taiwan.

Sandi said she’s really excited to learn how other teachers around the world teach science. Her tour will take her to the Taiwanese National Science Centre and to the Taipei 101 – the highest building in the world until 2010 when it was eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Rather than view it as a tourist, the educators will get to learn all about the engineering side of the building and how it was constructed.

“They keep you really busy from what I hear,” Sandi said.

Keltie is looking forward to the international trip and meeting new people along the way.

“I’m excited to tour the city of Taipei with both my delegation and the family that will be hosting me for part of my trip,” she said.

Verbeurgt said Keltie more than fits the bill for Canada’s representative, and it will be great exposure for her project.

“It just gives me shivers to think what an awesome experience it will be for her,” he said.

For Keltie, participating in science fairs has been a great opportunity to learn from others.

“My favourite part of participating in science fairs is the judging and networking,” she said. “I love having conversations with like-minded people who are excited to talk to me and hear about my project.”

The local EKRSF is set for March 1 and 2, 2013, but there will be one familiar face absent from the competition. Keltie has chosen to step back and move into a volunteering role.

“This year I have decided to become active in volunteering for our regional fair,” she said. “I think it’s important for younger kids to have a role model close to their own age in something as necessary as science.”

Keltie’s life wouldn’t have been the same without her entries into the EKRSF and Canada-Wide Science Fair the past few years, and she hopes her experience can help others.

“Being involved in these fairs has changed my life so much,” Keltie said. “I have been waiting for the opportunity to reach out to younger students who are curious about science and show them that science fairs open countless doors of opportunity for them to explore their interests, answer their questions, and learn to solve problems.”

“I am hoping to be able to take time to go into schools and speak to classes to tell them more of what the science fair is about.”

Keltie also has another thing keeping her busy: the prospect of graduating in June has her furiously applying for universities, seeking scholarships and planning her next step into post secondary life.

“I’m very proud of her,” Sandi said.

Once the trio return to B.C. with their stories and experiences, Sandi said their work is not done. The three will have to write a report on how to improve science, innovation and technology in youth.

Keltie and Kevala have launched a fundraising drive to help support Team Canada on their trip to Taiwan. To see how you can help, contact Keltie at (250) 919-0340.

The East Kootenay Regional Science Fair will be held at the College of the Rockies on March 1 and 2 2013, and this year’s Canada-Wide Science Fair will take place in Lethbridge on May 11 through 18.

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