Saanich high school student designs robot for nuclear lab

The St. Michaels University student was one of 20 students from across the country admitted to the Deep River Science Academy, a not-for profit private summer school that connects high-achieving science students with scientists and engineers in a laboratory setting.

When Keiler Totz talks about his six weeks spent at science academy at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Ontario, it’s hard to tell he’s just 16.

The St. Michaels University student was one of 20 students from across the country admitted to the Deep River Science Academy, a not-for profit private summer school that connects high-achieving science students with scientists and engineers in a laboratory setting.

“The most rewarding part was seeing everything working together and your ideas come to fruition,” said Totz, a Grade 10 student, who designed a scissor lift for a remote control vehicle during his study.

He spent July 25 – Aug. 6 working with a lab supervisor, an engineering student tutor and another high school student while developing the vehicle, intended to measure ambient radiation levels and record internal visual conditions inside buildings slated to be decommissioned.

Totz admits to how cool it is to go to work in a nuclear research facility, “especially when you see the armoured SUVs rolling around,” he said.

The Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories are the site of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s major research and development. The laboratory has been a research site for the science academy program since its inception 25 years ago, when Totz’s mother Suzanne was a first-year university student and tutor for the Deep River program.

Not only does the academy offer an opportunity for budding scientists that doesn’t exist on the Island, Suzanne said, it’s also a place where women science students are well-represented.

“To get experience like that is incredible,” she said. “It really affirmed that he wants to go into physics and engineering.”

Danielle Martin, program director for the science academy, said Totz’s work “made a significant contribution” to the lab.

Totz was the only student from Greater Victoria admitted to Deep River Science Academy in 2011.

nnorth@saanichnews.com