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#OdySci Profile Day 5: Charnjit Nijjar

As part of Science Odyssey, we are interviewing a variety of STEM innovators to investigate pathways into STEM and to discuss the future of STEM learning and careers. 

Charnjit Nijjar is a grade 10 student with a passion for science and engineering (He scored 100% in Science 10 and is currently sitting at 95% in Math 10!) at Rick Hansen Secondary, in Abbotsford. 

What sparked your interest in science, technology, engineering and/or math?

My passion and interest towards Science and Math was developed by my curious mind as a child. As a kid I remember being the most curious kid I could imagine. For every answer I was told I almost always had a question in return. Math and Science are subjects that cover most aspects in the world, and I guess you could say my curiosity just brought those interests on to me. It wasn’t until High School that I was really introduced to technology and engineering. At my high school, Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business, we use technology every day to do our work. My interest towards engineering and technology was sparked by a project we did in grade 9. We had to make our own incubators for chicken eggs. We had to research how to make them, how to take care of the eggs, and record our findings using technology. We also designed/engineered all parts of the incubator to make sure the eggs were well taken care of. After this project I realized how much more fun my favourite subjects (Math and Science) are when engineering and technology is involved.

Do you have a mentor who has supported you? Who are they and how have you interacted with them?

The mentor who has supported my the most is my grade 10 Science teacher Mrs. Dick. She has always been there to answer any questions I had. She introduced us to aquaponics,a new way to grow food without using as many resources that everyday farmers do today. She never hesitated to stay extra time during lunch, or after school so I could work on our semester-long project. Any time I would run into problems while engineering and making our Aquaponics system, she would allow me to do any problem solving, rather than doing it for me. She not only trained and taught me above and beyond what the grade 10 curriculum requires, she allowed me to use these things myself throughout the semester. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher and mentor in my life.

What did you want to be when you were small? What do you see yourself doing 10-20 years from now?

As a child at first I wanted to be a Pizza Maker with my own pizza shop. As I grew out of that phase and realized the much more ambitious career options I had my mind set on becoming a doctor by grade 3. In 10-20 years from now I see myself using researching the use of 3D printing to revolutionize organ transplants.

Describe the most interesting science, technology, engineering or math project you’ve taken part in, and what your role was?

The most interesting project that I have taken part in is our Aquaponics project this year. In groups we had to design Aquaponics systems that would be ideal for the system to work. For those of you who are unfamiliar with aquaponics, it is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. As a result we end up with a very resource efficient system to grow leafy greens. Throughout this project I was my group's leader and I was in charge of making sure things get done properly. We designed a system with a fish tank, a grow bed, and a sump. This made it a lot harder to get the water cycling through 3 different places. I collaborated with Mrs. Dick and my group members and after a couple of weeks we were able to design and engineer a system that would work properly. The hardest part was putting it together. Any time a measurement was made incorrectly or we ran into some sort of problem we would fall behind schedule and I would stay after school to catch up. By the end of the semester we had a running system that we displayed at our school’s celebration of learning. This project allowed me to use all aspects of STEM. The way the fish feces acted as a fertilizer utilized science in the project. We used technology to do our research and learn how the system works. Just like most of you reading this, I had no idea what Aquaponics was, but I was able to find out exactly what it is using the internet. We engineered the system which was very complicated. And lastly this whole project was about about measurements and volume of water needed and so on. This project was probably the best, most engaging project I’ve done since I started going to school.

How can Science World help students learn about science and tech and careers (what are we or aren’t we doing?)?

I have heard about the Future Science Leaders program that Science World offers. I would be very interested in this program but, because I don’t live in Vancouver, it would be difficult to participate. I spoke to my principal and he told me how Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business is looking to partner with Science World to offer this program to students in the Fraser Valley so students don’t have to live in Vancouver and could still participate in the program.  

Creating relationships with schools for STEM support

In 2015, Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business was selected as an "Innovation School" as part of the BC Ministry of Education's BC Innovation Strategy, to identify and share exceptional projects in schools in preparation for the new curriculum implementation. At the same time, Science World had completed our Supporting Schools Project, research that led us to identify how we could increase our support of schools through and following the curriculum transformation. Science World reached out to Innovation Schools to ask how we could support their community, leading to Science World and Rick Hansen Secondary partnering in a variety of ways to support students and teachers in the Fraser Valley for more, earlier exposure to STEM. Over the past 2 years, Rick Hansen Secondary has hosted a regional expansion of Science World's Super Science Club. Science World is currently exploring the expansion of Future Science Leaders in Abbotsford through a co-planning process with administrators and teachers at Rick Hansen Secondary, including sharing our knowledge and expertise on tinkering and developing a Maker Space. Future Science Leaders is a Science World program that inspires and challenges top science students to excel in science and innovation. In weekly meetings, students learn essential skills, meet top experts and innovators and apply their new knowledge and skills. 

What's happening today for Science Odyssey

Today is Teen Tuesday at TELUS World of Science. Today's special events for secondary students (10am–2pm):  

  • Marshmallow molecules (try this at home or school by downloading MarshmallowMolecules (PDF) by Andria Stafford, Fort Nelson Secondary School)
  • Discuss ethics of animal use with the Animals in Science Policy Institute. Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy and colleagues will be on-hand to share virtual lab tools. 
  • Theremin demonstration of how capacitance can be used to make music. *Note this demonstration will occur once per hour

We're celebrating three BC Green Games teams today: