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National science fair:

Midale students win two awards

Erick Vandenhurk and Jarika Penny, Grade 12 students at Midale Central School, won the prestigious Manning Innovation Achievement Award, along with the silver medal for senior engineering, at the 2010 Canada-Wide Science Fair for an engineering project that farmers will love: a grain bin lid that stays shut when its supposed to.The two students were among nearly 500 finalists at the national fair, held at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., May 15-23, after being named as one of the top winners of the Southeast Regional Science Fair.We were both really honoured to have the opportunity to go, and being there was a great experience. We met a lot of people go to see projects from all over the country. We were extremely surprised to receive the medals we got. A lot of the projects we went up against were very detailed and well-researched; we were quite surprised and excited, said Penny.Canada needs innovation to compete and prosper, and that means we need to encourage and celebrate our innovative youth, said Bruce Fenwick, executive director of the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation. The Foundations Young Canadian Program awards a total of $20,000 each year to recognize innovative youth competing at the national science fair; Vandenhurk and Penny won $500.The idea for a new type of lid came to Vandenhurk when he and his dad, Dan, were mulling over problems they were having with the family farms grain bin lids, such as failure to close, water seeping in, and birds getting inside.Vandenhurk and Pennys simple yet elegant design for a sliding bin lid solves the problems that come with springs and tension rods. Wind doesnt blow open the sliding lid and water drains off instead of pooling on top.It was kind of hit-and-miss, really. We wanted it to be slanted so its own weight would help to keep it closed, explained Vandenhurk, adding after he built the first prototype of the lid, it was simple to manufacture.Their award-winning engineering project garnered the pair lots of attention, including offers of entrance scholarships from three universities.During the public viewing of the fair, there was quite a bit of interest in it, which we were surprised at, considering it was Ontario, said Vandenhurk, adding that a number of local farmers in the Peterborough area were interested in what they built.The judging was fairly stringent for the national fair, he noted, with a team of six judges, one of whom had a Ph.D in engineering, one in math and two in science.If you didnt know your stuff, they would hit you pretty hard with the questions, he said, adding he thought they did fairly well.Vandenhurk plans on taking the grain lid project up to the Farm Progress Show in Regina, where he hopes to find out what interest there is from the agricultural community in their invention.Were not really sure what to expect there. Its kind of overwhelming, added Penny. Were hoping to see the reaction we get from farmers and from companies.Both teens enjoy working on the farm and Vandenhurk participates in 4-H events. Vandenhurk plans to take ag mechanics at SIAST in the fall, and is also a budding welder, while Penny intends to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.Erick is the son of Dan and Louise Vandenhurk, who farm southeast of Midale, while Jarika is the daughter of Darwin and Rhonda Penny, who farm just outside of Midale.Eight projects are chosen every year from the Canada-Wide Science Fair to receive a Manning Innovation Achievement Award.The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation recognizes the importance of Canadian innovation in strengthening the nations capacity to compete in the global economy. The Foundation supports and celebrates Canadians with the imagination to innovate and the stamina to succeed. Visit for more information.