The kids are alright

The future of innovation

I’m standing in front of a poster paper entitled “Photoautotrophic composite based nanocrystalline solar cells.”  I’m completely baffled.  Luckily, the lead scientist on the project, Sruti Arulmani is there to explain it all to me.

Sruti is in Grade seven.

Her project, one of many displayed at the Youth Science Ontario Showcase on June 8, represents the absolute pinnacle of scientific exploration amongst Canadian youth. During her project, Arulmani coated solar cells with a nanomaterial called titanium dioxide and then proceeded to test their effectiveness through different colour filters.

She is passionate about her chosen project. “Nanotechnology is the future,” she tells me, pointing out graphs that show electrical current increasing by 70-80% depending on the colour of the dye used for the filter.

Similar projects are peppered around the room. Sandro Young, a Grade 10 student from Lisgar C.I. in Ottawa, has developed a 3D computer interface using two Wii remote controls and a system of LED lights.  And it works.  Well enough to win Young this year’s EnCana Platinum Award – Best Intermediate Project at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Other projects tackle a shopping list of humanity’s greatest challenges: using stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries, turning algae into biofuels, curing breast cancer, creating microbial fuel cells. One enterprising scientist developed a self-powered teeter-totter that generates 25 V of DC electricity.

The exuberance with which these young scholars plunge themselves into the world of science is inspiring. It’s our job to turn their exuberance into economic growth and viable technologies that will change Canadian society.

Many of the young scientists took a tour through the MaRS building earlier in the day. We just have to make sure they keep coming back.