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For this brother and sister, science is a family affair

Published on

Troy Shantz

It’s science fair season and the Deol household is a flurry of activity.

Sarnia siblings Mavi Deol, 17, and Safia Deol, 12, are finalizing submissions for the 46th annual Lambton County Science fair, something the family has done annually since 2012.

“It’s a bit busy. There’s a project going on in one corner, or in the basement… and there are plants growing in one corner,” said their mother, Harminder Deol, who also happens to teach science at Northern Collegiate.

“Sometimes I’ve had to ask people, please don’t come (to visit).”

The Fair has categories open to students from Grades 3 to 12. Participants compete for over $5,000 in prizes, with the intermediate and senior winners eligible to qualify for the Canada-Wide Science Fair May 15-17 in Fredericton.

Mavi Deol has tackled a variety of problems in prior projects. The Northern student’s first endeavour was a dandelion spray made from pine needles – effectively killing the weed with no harm to the soil or surrounding plants.

In Grade 8 he developed a wearable servomotor that minimized hand tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Safia Deol is passionate about environmental issues. She developed a brick made of invasive phragmites stalks while in third grade. The following year she found a natural and healthy alternative to cadmium, a toxic ingredient found in many cosmetics.

“We’ve grown up in science, all through our lives,” the Cathcart Boulevard student said with a smile.

Their age difference makes collaborative projects a challenge, Mavi said, but hasn’t stopped them from helping each other out at times.

Safia said she bounces ideas off her brother, while Mavi noted his sister is a better at getting her hands dirty. That skill came in handy two years ago when Mavi needed worms for a project.

“I don’t like handling worms,” he said with a grimace as his sister laughed.

Harminder Deol said she encourages her children to explore topics outside the school curriculum when developing Science Fair submissions.

To help with this year’s submission, Mavi has enrolled in a course at Harvard.

“It’s beyond the classroom,” his mother said. “That is the purpose of the Science Fair, to get that exposure so that it leads you to future careers or pathways.”

This year’s Lambton County Science Fair is scheduled for April 5-6 at Lambton College.

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