12 Manitoba students bring home the hardware after national science fair

By | May 20, 2019

Manitoba high school students brought home the hardware after a series of medal wins at a national science fair in Fredericton, N.B., over the weekend.

They were up against 500 of Canada’s top young science minds at the Canada-Wide Science fair, and among the 12 Manitoba winners were Emily Robb and Leah Schwartz. The 16-year-olds were awarded gold medals and $4,000 entrance scholarships to a few different Canadian universities for their respective projects on hydroponics and genetics.

Annika Paliwal, 13, won silver and a $2,000 entrance scholarship for her work on determining cognitive abilities of people based on how they performed memory games.

Sarah Grieves, 16, won $1,000 entrance scholarships and bronze medals for her work on soil contamination in Oxford House First Nation, as did 18-year-old Brandonite Aiden Simard.

‘It affects everybody’

Simard’s study found a link between social media use and poor mental health in youth.

“I received a lot of attention at my booth, and specifically from the judges as well as the public, just because it’s such a relatable topic,” Simard told CBC Information Radio guest host Pat Kaniuga on Monday.

“It affects everybody who uses social media.”

He said that social media use had an effect on study participants that is very similar to the effects heavily addictive drugs — such as heroin and cocaine — have on the body and mind.

Aiden Simard, 18, won third place at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, N.B., for his research showing a correlation between social media use levels and poor mental health. (Submitted by Aiden Simard)

“They’re always addicted to having that screen, always checking their feed,” he said. “That sort of idea is kind of taking them out of the real world, basically.”

The seed of the idea for his study came from taking a hard look at how he and his peers’ compulsive scrolling was affecting them below the surface.

The Neelin High School student enlisted 28 participants between the age of 15 to 17 who agreed to cut back on social media use over a month. Simard had each record their stress levels before, during and after the trial, and he monitored their blood pressure and cortisol levels.

‘It’s in control of you’

The end result suggested the participants were less anxious or stressed out, slept and ate better and were more sociable after weaning themselves off social media.

Simard wanted to share that data with others so they know how their devices and digital habits influence them in unhealthy ways.

“I think it was just to try to educate people that there is this biological connection to anxiety from social media, that it causes different forms of cognitive and physical harm when the usage of social media is too high,” said Simard.

“My biggest message is to just try to listen to your own symptoms — physical, physiological ones as well as psychological ones — to just try to test it when you’re in control and when it’s in control of you.”

Seeing how big of an impact social media had on the lives of his study participants has already got Simard taking a critical look at his own habits.

He graduates from high school this June and intends on continuing some of his social media research as he begins studying at the University of British Columbia this fall.

Gold medallists ($4,000-$5,000 entrance scholarships):

  • Emily Robb (16).
  • Leah Schwartz (16).

Silver medallists ($2,000 entrance scholarships):

  • Amy Gudmundson (15).
  • Annika Paliwal (13).
  • Graydon Strachan (14).

Bronze medallists ($1,000 entrance scholarships):

  • Sparsh Agrawal (16).
  • Samara Green (14), Anaya Permanand (13).
  • Sarah Grieves (16).
  • Aiden Simard (18).
  • Rosemund Ragetli (17).

Canadian Association of Physicists Prize, Intermediate:

  • Jarek Osika (15).