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Oro-Medonte teen wins Canada-Wide science award, lunch with an astronaut

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Special to Postmedia Network

Oro-Medonte's Maya Burhanpurkar, the recent winner of the Grand Platinum award at the Canada Wide Science Fair, was invited to lunch Friday with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield where the two discussed her research, future and their mutual love of music.
Submitted photo

Oro-Medonte's Maya Burhanpurkar, the recent winner of the Grand Platinum award at the Canada Wide Science Fair, was invited to lunch Friday with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield where the two discussed her research, future and their mutual love of music. Submitted photo

Imagine being 15 years old and educating Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield about new advances in fundamental physics.

Oro-Medonte Township’s Maya Burhanpurkar did just that Friday when she was invited to have lunch with Hadfield, who gave a presentation in Barrie.

Burhanpurkar recently won the Grand Platinum award of the Canada-Wide Science Fair for her work on a new property of nature called absement.

It’s the second time she has won the award, making her the first in Simcoe County and one of only a handful of people in Canada to do so.

“(Hadfield) spent a good 10 minutes talking to me,” Burhanpurkar said. “We spent a lot of time talking about the physics research I have done and he was really interested in that. He was asking a lot of questions about the implications to aerospace and aeronautics.”

Burhanpurkar, a Grade 10 student at Barrie North Collegiate Institute, won for her project titled “The Time-Integral of Distance: Uncovering a New Property of Fundamental Physics.” The work has applications ranging from fluid dynamics to fighter-jet avionics.

“By using the time integral of distance in the computation of certain aspects of aircraft, you can yield dramatic improvements in computational efficiency, which can result in far more efficient aircraft and environmentally friendly airplanes,” Burhanpurkar said.

In addition to winning the top prize at the science fair, she won the Discovery Challenge Award, a gold medal, the Actuarial Foundation of Canada award for the best use of mathematics, statistics and database, as well as scholarships to Western University and the University of Windsor.

Burhanpurkar has been researching the time integral of distance for about a year, continuing to build on her initial project, which she took to the international Google Science Fair last year.

“I took everything further. I’m working on publishing my results,” she said.

For this year’s project, she redesigned the experimental apparatus, reformulated her mathematical models, collected more data and conducted more analysis.

Still, when her name was called at the event in Waterloo, she was surprised.

“I could hardly believe it. I had put so much time and effort into that project. I was so happy to see that, now that I had won the platinum award, maybe I could engage more students in science,” she said.

Burhanpurkar encourages other students to study science, particularly girls and students who live in rural areas.

She has spoken publicly, encouraging students to get a wide-ranging education and not to specialize too early, so, she was pleasantly surprised when she heard Hadfield speaking of the same thing.

“Communicating through art and music is also something I identify with. For him, it’s guitar. For me, it’s piano,” said Burhanpurkar, who has her Grade 7 in piano.

It’s wasn’t the only philosophical point they had in common.

“He told me that I make my dreams come true. It’s a really good message to be spreading. So often, we have our dreams, but we say, ‘Those are unattainable.’ But we need to be reminded that if we work hard enough, that if we try our best, then maybe our dreams can come true,” she said. “For me, there were so many obstacles (while) trying to get started with my science research. Hundreds of labs turned me down. It’s all about persevering and coming up with creative solutions to your problems. Really, anything is possible.”

This summer, she is going to the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo. She plans to go to university when she completes high school. While she wants to stay in Canada, she isn’t ruling out schools in the United States and England.

gisele.wintonsarvis@sunmedia.ca


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