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Aviation and Oceanography: Why it’s important to try everything!

A close-up of Emma by the water
By Emma Creelman, 17
CAGIS Teen Ambassador

This year will be my second year as a Teen Ambassador for CAGIS. I am also volunteering for the CAGIS Halifax Chapter. One of my favourite CAGIS memories was a session featuring Shazia Montgomery, an aspiring airline transport pilot. Before that session, I had known different pilots and aspiring pilots, but I had never met a female pilot. Shazia’s story ignited in me a confidence. I knew that with enough hard work, I could also succeed in aviation.

The hard work paid off! 

Last year I was awarded a scholarship valued at over $13,000 to obtain my glider pilot’s license (essentially an airplane, but without an engine)! The scholarship was awarded to me by the Department of National Defence, through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets (RCAC) program. Annually, around 90 of the 24,000 air cadets in Canada write an exam, go through a merit review board and are awarded a scholarship to obtain their glider pilot’s license for free. The scholarship is awarded based on the glider exam marks, school marks, involvement in the cadet’s program, extracurriculars, and personality. 

That summer, I spent six weeks in Quebec where I flew six days a week for up to nine hours each day! While it wasn’t easy, I ultimately graduated the course with my pilot’s license. When I returned to Nova Scotia, I continued to fly at my local flying site with the RCAC until the end of the season in November. The hope is that I will continue to build up my hours in the new season, gain my ratings (so I can carry passengers), and become a summer glider instructor for the Department of National Defence!

Looking back, my interest in aviation began when I was twelve and joined the Air Cadets program, but the first time I wrote the glider pilot exam, I didn’t end up making it into the program. This was a big set back for me. However, after the CAGIS session with Shazia and encouragement from my family, friends, and other pilots, I tried again. And now I have my glider’s license!

My interest in aviation is rooted in my love for physics and math, from the forces acting on the aircraft to weather patterns and navigation.

There are other areas of STEM, though, that fascinate me.

This summer, two of my friends and I decided to enter Brilliant Lab’s 2023 Brilliant Blue Competition, an international science fair that challenges high school students to create an innovation that will improve the blue economy. With some research throughout the summer, we decided to build a micro-ecosystem prototype that tests the concept of integrated multitrophic aquaculture (IMTA), by having mussels in two boxes, one with seaweed in it and one without. Simply said, our project tested if mussels grown with kelp and seaweed would increase water quality and thus the health of the mussels. We put together our prototype called the “Sea Hive” and put it in the ocean to collect data for a month. After, we analyzed the data and found that, indeed, water quality was higher on the side with mussels and presented our findings in the competition!

Our project won the Productive Ocean Category, one of ten awarded to the 38 teams from 17 countries including Lebanon, Trinidad and Tobago, and Italy. 

Getting to see the inventions of other youth from around the globe was such an inspiring experience! After the competition, we were interviewed on CBC’s Information Morning and also had a CBC article published on our project which has since been republished by various news outlets.

I have always loved all areas of STEM and when thinking about what I want to pursue in the future as a scientist, it is hard to choose between all the interesting topics. What I am sure about is that in the future, I want to use science to make a more sustainable world.

My biggest piece of advice is to try everything! 

Whenever an opportunity comes my way I take it, even if it seems too hard or too scary, and this is how I’ve learnt so much about the universe and myself. The worst that can happen is you don’t achieve something, but you learn about yourself. Everyone’s journey in STEM is different, so do what makes you excited, and don’t worry too much about other people!

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