May 29, 2008

Bio-Fuel from Algae?

Oliver Lindstrom is home from his eight-day trek that took him across the country to Ottawa where he competed in the National Science Fair.

“It was very interesting,” said 12-year-old Oliver from his home in Fraser Lake on Friday May 23. “We had to make my project (about growing algae) something I could take as a carry-on. We heard horror stories about other projects that were ruined by careless baggage handlers.”

With the help of Streamline Signs, Oliver’s backdrop was fashioned from a single sheet of white vinyl. The data was printed on the two foot sign that ‘weighed about three pounds’ said Oliver.

“It was folded into a tent shape and I carried it on the plane with me.”

“There were pages and pages of instructions on how to handle the contents of the project,” said Mom Stephanie in the weeks leading up to the trip. The algae couldn’t be transported by air so they had them photographed using special microscopes at UNBC. “They were excellent about helping us,” said Stephanie.

Oliver said he had the idea to grow the algae because he thought it could be “something new from the classic plant growth experiment.”

“I started the experiment a few months ago. I put 250ml of water in mason jars with five milliliters of algae powder and 1/6 cup of algae culture. It took about three days before it grew and I let it grow for three more days before it was done.

“Amazing Algae” can be used for a lot of stuff,” says Oliver. “It can be turned into a bio-fuel, it can be converted into plastic, it can be used as a medication, and it has all the nutrients needed for sustainability except vitamin C. In the 1960s it was even used as food for the cosmonauts.”

At the science fair at the University of Ottawa the projects were set up in a gym ‘the size of Super Valu’ said Oliver. “There were 480 participants, 300 judges and about 900 administrators and university staff.”

There was lots to do every day, and Mom, Stephanie says they hardly saw Oliver. They tried to be in some of the places that Oliver was scheduled to visit, but other than that he stayed in the University dorms and they stayed at a bed and breakfast.

Oliver said there was lots of judging, and public viewing of the projects.

“I was probably one of the youngest there.”

While Oliver’s project didn’t win any awards, he is already working on next year’s experiment - using algae once again,

The Science Fair drew in all ages from Grade 7 to Grade 12.

“In the Advanced Science rooms they were doing experiments on stem cells and how to split atoms.” said Oliver with obvious interest.

Oliver and all other B.C. winners are invited to a banquet in Vancouver in October where they can meet the top scientists of Canada. Oliver can hardly wait.

“While I was in Ottawa I met the president of Via Rail and I was offered a job from a Fisheries of Canada official from Prince George,” said Oliver.

But Oliver doesn’t plan to start a job yet.

“I will be busy producing bio-fuel from algae,” he says of the summer stretching before him. “I have a few vital components to figure out, like how to extract the chlorophyll from the algae.”

With the $200 proceeds from his regional win, Oliver plans to replace the $50 microscope he got when he was six years old. “It’s a good little microscope,” he says, “And it has more options than some $2,000 ones.”

But the lure of getting something newer and a bit bigger is what’s in the back of this scientists mind, especially after checking what’s available on line.

Oliver is an E-Bus student.

No comments: