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

Pug life: Waggish dog names listed in White Rock

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered with the city

Fraser Health reminds parents to get their kids fully vaccinated against measles

Health authority will send letters home to parents with catch-up program information

Delta police volunteers log over 40,000 hours in 2018

The department thanked volunteers with a banquet on April 11

South Surrey air cadets score top marks in B.C.

907 Black Knights Squadron notch provincial marksmanship win – again

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

PHOTOS: Inside the ‘shoe house’ in Northern B.C.

A rare look inside the famous Kitseguecla Lake Road shoe house, with a tour led by owner Toby Walsh

Child, 11, accidentally shot in the chest at Alberta religious colony

Child taken from Hutterite colony to nearby hospital

Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

Many of those who helped that day — first responders and Good Samaritans alike — still affected

Case of man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting adjourned until May

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault

Most Read