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Prince George student earns silver at Canada Wide Science Fair

Prabhnoor Sidhu seeks to reduce the devastation brought by landslides with her NatureGate

A College Height Secondary School student's effort to lessen the effects of fast-moving landslides has earned her a silver excellence award at the Canada Wide Science Fair.

Inspired by the devastation the November 2021 atmospheric river wreaked on southern B.C., Prabhnoor Sidhu set out to devise a low-cost, easy-to-build solution and came up with a promising prototype.

Called NatureGate, it consists of "connect pieces" that act as long anchors to stabilize the slope and with ridges to grab onto the soil, topped by a tarp that acts like a leaf to protect the soil. It also features tracks to divert water.

"It's basically all like a giant artificial plant to protect and stabilize the slope," Sidhu said.

Her entry at the science fair, held May 17-19 in Edmonton, is actually a follow up to one that earned her a bronze medal in 2022.

"I focused on slopes that had too much water on them, whereas this year I focused on slopes that were burnt by wildfires and I did a lot more comprehensive testing," Sidhu said.

Those tests were conducted in the back yard of her home, where she created her own experimental disaster zone. To replicate a slope hit by wildfire she piled up a mound of sandy soil and sprayed it with oil to make it "hydrophobic" or water repellent. Next, she inserted the array into the pile, sprayed water over it and measured the flow volume and the run-out distance.

"And I just kept doing that over and over again," Sidhu said.

By her calculation, the invention reduced the volume of debris that would otherwise would have been disturbed by about 71 per cent far exceeding her goal of 25 per cent. (Her project board as posted online had put the figure at 14 per cent but that turned out to be a miscalculation, Sidhu said in an update after this story was posted).

The project also earned her the top prize at this year's regional science fair.

Since February, Sidhu put in about 250 hours on the project.

Just being around other students with the same interest, let alone receiving the award, was "amazing" and also a sign that all that work paid off.

Now in Grade 12, Sidhu has been participating in science fairs since Grade 5.

"I really like kind of being able to solve real world problems that I'm passionate about and learn about new concepts," Sidhu said. "It's really fun to learn all the engineering and how to make a project."

Looking ahead, she has her sights set on enrolling in engineering at a university - and to continue to advance her invention.

"I think science fairs are a great opportunity to make the world a better place and learn about something you're passionate about," Sidhu said. "Don't be afraid to do a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) project because you'll learn a lot of skills and it's a great opportunity.

For more on Sidhu's project go to: