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Bedford student’s water project picked for international competition

Bedford Academy student designed wax that can detect contaminated water

3 min read
caption Lunenburg, NS waterfront
Ashley Corbett

A 13-year-old Bedford student is taking her science fair project on drinking water to an international competition.

Rachel Brouwer, a Grade 9 student at Bedford Academy, has been selected to compete at this year’s international-level science fair in Arizona in May.

Brouwer has designed a wax that changes colour to indicate when water is safe to drink. The project is designed to help people in countries where clean drinking water is a concern.

“I really wanted to create something that would help people in need,” says Brouwer.

caption Rachel Brouwer

A sign she saw at a lake while on a family hiking trip in New Hampshire inspired her idea for the project.

“My brother and I saw the lakes and the rivers and then we saw the contaminated, ‘do not drink’ sign.”

At the time, Brouwer was reading I Am Malala, a book by Malala Yousafzai, who fought for equal rights to education for women and girls in Pakistan.

“In this book, many women and girls were dying from the cholera outbreak. I put these two ideas together and wanted to make a difference.”

Brouwer says it isn’t a passion for science that led her to compete at an international competition.

“I’ve always loved creating things. I really wanted to create something that would help people in need.”

She has always enjoyed crafts, and believes it helped her find a passion for invention.

“Knowing how to put things together at a young age can definitely spark an interest in the future.”

Brad McCabe, executive director of the Youth Science Canada program, says he believes it is the youthful approach students offer that makes the program unique.

“Most often it’s a way of looking at that problem that is very different from how anyone else would look at it.”

McCabe adds that the youth of today are not always properly represented for what they are capable of.

“Everybody talks about millennials being very entitled and they never leave the glow of their screens, but these kids have identified a local, regional, global issue that has importance to them and they’ve built a solution to it.”

The prizes at the competition in Arizona include scholarships and cash.

According to a news release, the international competition brings together more than 1,700 students from 80 countries. Brouwer is the only Nova Scotian on the list, and one of eight Canadians.

In last year’s competition, Canada won first and second place overall.

The students have “big shoes to fill,” says McCabe.

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