Brock mentorship program students heading to Canadian science fair

The Campaign for a Bold New Brock

Brock mentorship program students heading to Canadian science fair

May 3, 2010

Brock’s mentoring program appears to be paying off for three high school students on their way to Canada’s national science fair.

David Irwin, Ilia Choly and Tyler Plyley are headed to the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Peterborough, Ont. May 15 to 23. All three participated in the annual Brock Mentorship Program, where they were paired with University experts who guided them through intensive research projects.

Irwin, a student at Sir Winston Churchill (St. Catharines), and Choly, from Holy Cross Catholic High School (St. Catharines), earned a slew of awards at the Niagara Region Science and Engineering Fair (NRSEF) from March 26 to 28. Their “ACE (Autonomous Co-operative Exploration)” project won “best in fair,” as well as six other awards. In the Brock program, they were mentored by Tom MacDonald from the University electronics shop.

Plyley, a student from St. Michael Catholic High School (Niagara Falls), won four awards for “Alkaloids to be, or not to be in Catharanthus,” including the bronze medal for the senior division and the Niagara Peninsula Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Award. He was mentored by Vincenzo DeLuca, a Biological Sciences professor and expert in plant biochemistry.

The Brock Mentorship Program sees gifted Grade 12 students from across Niagara pair up with professors from various Brock faculties. For one semester, participating students devote at least two hours a day to their projects, eventually presenting their findings at a symposium at the University.

Joe Engemann, assistant professor of Education, started the program 14 years ago to give students a chance to flex their intellectual muscle. More than 200 local students have participated, mostly in scientific subjects. Many have gone on to earn PhDs.

The program gives already bright students an outlet, he said.

“Where else are they able to do research like that, that they can eventually present at national and international competitions?” said Engemann, a former elementary school teacher and one-time co-ordinator of the Lincoln County Catholic school board’s gifted program. “Some have presented at scientific conferences even as Grade 12 students.”

Jessica Neufeld of Holy Cross Catholic High School, who also participated in the Brock mentorship program, received an honourable mention in the senior division at NRSEF, as well as the Canadian Federation of University Women Award and the U.S. Army Reserve Award (certificate). At Brock, she was mentored by Alan Castle (Biological Sciences).

Shawna Daley, also of Holy Cross, earned an honourable mention in the senior division. At Brock, she was mentored by Paul Zelisko (Chemistry).

Here is a complete list of the awards won by Irwin and Choly:

  • best in fair
  • Brock entrance scholarships
  • the Professional Engineers of Ontario Award
  • the Canadian Army Reserve Award
  • the U.S. Army Reserve Award
  • the Accipter Radar Technology Award for Engineering Innovation
  • the Hatch Ltd. Award
  • the Brock Faculty of Math and Science Award (gold medal, senior division)