A local student has made a national splash with a science project that turns the ocean tide into electricity.
Clayton Harder’s remarkable journey began at North Island Secondary School in Port McNeill with a project called “Tidal Power Pump”.
Harder, a Grade 8 student, designed and made a pump that can generate electricity using tides.
“While I was down at the docks in Port McNeill I noticed the rise and fall of the tides looked like a pump. So I thought I would design a pump that would run off the tides to generate electricity,” said Clayton, of the inspiration for his project.
The young man is interested particularly in environmental sciences and finding ways to “stop stuff from harming the environment.”
Harder created a small-scale prototype, which was actually able to run a light for a short period of time.
This April, Clayton, 14, entered his project into the Northern Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair at NISS. His project won the Michael Crooks Physics award, The B.C. Hydro for Generations award, and Top Overall Project award which allowed him to attend the Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Clayton had to fund-raise over $2,000 for this trip, said his mom Kathy, and was supported by North Island Chipping, the Rotary Clubs of Port Hardy and Port McNeill, the Lions Clubs of Port Hardy and Port McNeill, Lemare Lake Logging Ltd., and Strategic Forest Management.
NISS Foods Teacher Ricki McCrae purchased the ingredients and organized a bake sale, and vegetable bundles and firewood were also sold as a fund-raiser.
“They, and many others, all helped make this trip possible,” said Kathy.
“It made me happy that so many people cared about the science fair and helping people to go there,” Clayton said.
From May 9 to May 17, Clayton attended this fair along with 500 other kids from across Canada whose projects placed in their regional science fairs. There were only 65 projects from BC that made it to the CWSF. That total was from the senior, intermediate, and junior levels combined.
The week included a day of judging, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. where Clayton was interviewed thoroughly by over 20 different judges. There was also two and a half days of public viewing which over 4,000 people attended.
The event wasn’t all work, a day was set aside for the kids to go to various sites in the Fredericton area. Clayton was able to spend a day at the Bay of Fundy.
Friday, May 15 featured an awards day ceremony where Clayton was presented with a Silver Medal of Excellence and the Junior Energy Challenge Award. The silver medal awards come with a $2,000 scholarship to Western University.
“This is a huge achievement as less than one per cent of the science fair projects make it to the Canada Wide Science Fair and out of those, less than one third receive any type of award,” said Kathy.
“As parents we are very proud of his accomplishments, but we are most proud of who he is. He is growing up to be a fine, respectful young man. That is what is important,” she said.
“We’ve seen increasing growth with all the projects,” said Rena Sweeney, chair of the Northern Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair Committee.
Clayton specifically is “looking at ways to apply his projects to solve real world problems,” Sweeney said.
“We’re looking forward to see the direction he’s going it,” she said.
And his mind is already turning.
Although he is just in the initial stages, Clayton hopes to build enough pumps to store energy on a Tesla battery to power a home.
While he is thinking about the future, Clayton also has an illustrious past.
His forays into science fairs began in Grade 6 when his project was top project overall, but he was too young to attend the CWSF.
In 2014, Clayton’s project won top overall project once again and he attended the CWSF event which was held in Windsor, Ontario. There he won a Bronze Medal of Excellence.
Science skills obviously run in the family.
Clayton’s brother Trevor won top overall project awards in 2011 and 2012 and attended the CWSF in Toronto and then in Charlottetown, P.E.I.