Congratulations are in order for Eastmain’s Raven Mark and Mistissini’s Amy Mattawashish and Roberta Polson-Blacksmith as all three returned home winners from the 2011 Quebec Aboriginal Science and Engineering Association (QASEA) Science Fair provincial finals held on the Naskapi Kawawachikamach reserve March 22-23.

Twelve-year-old Mark, who is in Secondary 1, claimed third prize in the Secondary 1 category for her project entitled, “What is the Acidity in People Saliva?”

Mark said it felt good to win third prize at the science fair but when asked about what she remember most about the event, she responded, “It was crowded.” At the same time, she said it was a lot of fun.

Mark presented to the public that it is important to keep one’s saliva in balance and that this can easily be done by keeping the right diet.

“If you don’t, you might get a lot of diseases,” said Mark.

Nutrition is very important to Mark.

“She is a very talented girl and this has a very positive impact on the school because everyone gets to celebrate the success and so everyone feels really proud and uplifted,” said Megan Fullerton, Mark’s Secondary 1 teacher. “I think it is incredible for student self-esteem and confidence building because they say to themselves that they can do this.”

Secondary 4 students Mattawashish and Polson-Blacksmith managed to claim second prize at the provincial finals for their project entitled, “The Effects of Smoking.”

While both girls were beaming due to their recent win, they also talked about how much they enjoyed the entire experience of being away with children from other First Nations throughout the province. Polson-Blacksmith said what really impressed her was how much talent she saw at the fair from so many First Nations youth from across the province.

“We chose our project because we wanted to send a message to the youth. We know that smoking kills but we wanted to give more information to people on what they will face in the future if they smoke and how it ruins the body.

“We mostly talked about the project but we showed a model of tar on the lungs. It was just a model though; we couldn’t get a real one,” she said.

Mattawashish said that to do the project they had to give lung capacity tests to other youth to show the immediate effects of smoking.

“The test showed that some of them really weren’t healthy and had a low lung capacity. Some people were really freaked out when they saw what it looks like inside the lungs with the tar,” said Mattawashish.

Jessica Mitchell, the guidance counselor in Kawawachikamach who was one of the main organizers for the event, said that 57 youth from 13 different communities participated in the event.

“We were really proud of all of the projects and even our kids here in Kawawachikamach did really well. We have not been participating in the fair for very long, maybe five years, and so it was great to see this be such a success.

“One of the major prize winners, Jenna Dumont from Kitigan Zibi, did her project on scoliosis and she actually has scoliosis and so that was very touching to see also,” said Mitchell.

And, with any hope, perhaps these winners or even those who got to see these projects may just have been inspired enough by them to continue following the path of science or engineering into a future career.