Natasha Burgert takes her solar-powered trike for a spin last year. (File photo)

Don’t be afraid to take risks: South Surrey science fair medallist

Natasha Burgert shares insights following Taiwan win

Looking around at fellow science-focused teens in Taiwan, Natasha Burgert noticed she was a minority.

And it wasn’t because the 17-year-old student is a strawberry-blonde Caucasian who calls South Surrey home.

Skin colour, language, clothing choices, etc. – none of that stood out for her in the crowd of students who had travelled from all corners of the world to participate in the Taiwan International Science Fair.

No – it was her gender. Among more than 200 students, Burgert was one of relatively few females on the competition floor.

“I wondered why that was,” she told Peace Arch News last Wednesday, two days after returning from the event with a bronze medal in her hand.

READ MORE: Solar bike design wins White Rock teen international award

“A lot of girls I know are almost afraid to show their difference in thinking and pursue these innovations. I think it’s more encouraged for guys,” Burgert said.

“I think that’s pretty crazy. I’ve never really cared about… conform(ing) to the mainstream.”

Burgert, who is in Grade 12 at Semiahmoo Secondary, won third in the fair’s Environmental Engineering category for her designs on sustainable transportation.

In short, a solar-powered trike she designed to operate continuously during sunny, daylight hours struck a chord on the world stage. She first showcased the trike to Peace Arch News a year ago, stating at the time that she “wanted to raise awareness and show people the power and the potential that renewable energy has.”

READ MORE: Solar bike an exercise in potential

The story drew interest from a Chinese businessman, who commented on PAN’s online article that her idea was “really a good inspiring one” that led to development of the ‘Surrey bike with Solar Panel’ – described on the company’s website as “an eco friendly, zero emission, pollution free quadricycle.”

Burgert said last week that “there’s really nothing more I could ask for” than knowing her idea inspired others.

She said she was invited to apply to compete in Taiwan after twice qualifying for the Canada-wide Science Fair.

But “I wasn’t really expecting to get in,” she said of the international event, explaining that a bronze medal at the national fair “meant there were other projects more qualified.”

Learning in January that she had indeed made the grade – as one of approximately 40 overseas and another 250 domestic students – to compete in Taiwan was “really quite exciting for me.”

Once there, Burgert found herself up against about 20 other students in her category, which was ultimately won by New Zealand’s Cian Hinton. The teen told Burgert he’d been working on his project – described online as an “Alternating Rotational Conversion Generator” – for five years, she noted, in awe.

Meeting other students who “poured so much time and energy” into their entries was among many highlights of the nine-day trip for Burgert.

She described the competition itself as friendly and motivational, and said she enjoyed being surrounded by students who hail from around the world, but share a common mindset.

“We think differently, have different ideas, but the idea of being different and having those innovations is really what we all share,” Burgert said.

“Maybe people expect to be treated differently. When you get there, we’re all just a bunch of science nerds. We’re all just passionate about delving into our curiosities. It doesn’t matter what nationality we are, what gender we are, because we care about things a lot less superficial than the colour of your skin.”

The fact she came home with a medal was simply icing on the cake.

“Usually at awards ceremonies, I’m pretty stressed out,” she said. “At this one, I was just so happy to be in Taiwan, meeting all these people from around the world… that I honestly did not care if I placed or not. So when they called my name, it was just, oh.

“I really felt more proud to be representing, not only Semiahmoo Secondary, but B.C. and Canada. It feels good to represent my country.”

She offered some advice for those unsure about pursuing their passions.

“(I) really encourage people to not care that it’s not a cool thing to do,” she said. “In order to ever achieve these, get these awards, these opportunities, you really have to take these risks.”

Burgert was one of two students representing Canada at the Taiwan fair, held Jan. 27 to Feb. 2. The second, Nicolas Fedrigo from Saanich, earned top spot in the Engineering category.

Looking ahead, Burgert hopes to help judge entries in the upcoming South Fraser Regional Science Fair, set for April 4-5 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Natasha Burgert and Nicolas Fedrigo with their science-fair medals. (Science Fair Foundation photo)

Just Posted

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Most Read

l -->