Most teens would hold their breath and walk by quickly if they passed a sewage lagoon. Not Kimberly Gulevich, of Fort St. John, BC. Instead, she took a closer look and investigated whether smaller household sewage lagoons could become a source of energy.
“I have become really interested in protecting the environment by using waste materials and existing technologies in new ways,” said the grade 12 student. “I heard of people who throw covers on their lagoons and collect gas. I decided to research this, and determine its potential in the north.”
Kimberly’s feasibility study, “Got Gas?” earned her the 2010 Weston Youth Innovation Award. The $2000 prize, presented annually by the Ontario Science Centre, recognizes young Canadian innovators who use science and technology to make a positive impact on real-world problems.
Sewage lagoons are often built for large-scale use, but in some developing countries, northern towns and First Nations reserves, they are used for individual households and apartments. Collecting the methane has two potential benefits: providing clean-burning fuel and keeping methane out of the atmosphere.
Kimberly made presentations to city council, the Minister of State for Climate Action and industry professionals. “I approached local businesses asking if they would sponsor specific parts of my project, while giving them an overview of what I hoped it would look like. I had worked with some of the businesses previously, but many new ones came onboard.”
Kimberly has attended countless science fairs including the Taiwan International Science Fair, with a variety of projects relating to the environment. She has already won half a dozen awards and scholarships, and is planning to attend the University of Northern British Columbia to study environmental engineering.
Her conclusion? Methane capture on a small-scale, household level, would not provide enough benefit. But Kimberly believes the application on agricultural and municipal lagoons has potential.
The judges at the Ontario Science Centre were not only impressed by Kimberly’s tenacity in testing her theories, but also by her ability to gather support from local business and community leaders for her project. Kimberly received her award at the Science Centre on Friday April 30, where astronaut Chris Hadfield dropped by to give his personal congratulations.
“Innovating isn’t always about coming up with something new, using old technologies in new ways is also innovation”, said Kimberly. “Through my research I’ve learned that if you never try something, then it is not going to magically happen. If we want to change the world, we are going to have to do it ourselves.”