South Nelson Elementary School

Paityn Smith solved the contest’s climate change challenge by imagining a unique way to help preserve Caribou and their habitat

South Nelson Elementary School

The Kootenay Contraption Contest, organized by KAST in partnership with FORTIS BC this past winter, was a massive success!

A resounding 280 students in grades 1-8 entered the contest from all over the Kootenays including Nelson, Creston, Salmo, Grand Forks, Invermere and Nakusp.

Students imagined, in class or at home, a contraption to address this year’s challenge: “Create a contraption that helps improve, solve or raises awareness in your local community about an important issue that is related to climate change.”

They were asked to write a few lines explaining their contraption, and illustrate it. Some of the participants even built a prototype of their contraption!

The grand prize winner, Paityn Smith, is in grade 6 at Nakusp Elementary School. Paityn imagined a unique way to help preserve Caribou and their habitat by limiting the number of snowmobiles in these areas. Recreational vehicles are a hazard to the caribou for many reasons, including the fact that snowmobiles create trails, which makes it that much easier for predators, like wolves, to move through the snow to hunt them in winter months. Paityn proposed strategically placing sensors which would be triggered when a snowmobile enters sensitive habitat.  As a result, a hologram would pop up to warn snowmobilers that the area is closed to recreational vehicles. Furthermore, there would be a camera on the hologram device to film and identify any snowmobiler who decides to disobey the warnings and continue into the habitat. Those that do not respect the rules would receive a fine from authorities. 

 “I think this will help the Caribou because the snowmobilers won’t make trails and then the wolves won’t be able to follow the trail and get to the Caribou.

Paityn’s unique idea was chosen as the grand prize winner for both its creativity using modern technology and because her solution addressed a very local environmental issue. 

“We received hundreds of amazing ideas to address everything from pollution in our waterways to CO2 levels in the atmosphere,” said Kailyn Skuban, Director of Operations at KAST, who helped judge the entries. “We really loved Paityn’s idea because she chose to address and bring light to a major wildlife conservation issue that we are facing here in the Kootenays.” 

For her ingenuity and creativity, Paityn won a Lenovo Notebook, generously donated by our friends at Phoenix Computers in Nelson.

Additional prizes were also awarded for the best entry by grade level. Students won either a KEVA Contraption kit or a Micro-bit Climate action kit to share with their classroom. Some of the amazing ideas we received this year included:

  • A system to collect used water (sink and washing machines) to use for plants and gardens
  • A climate change rover programmed to tell a computer when climate change has gone too far and that is able to detect invasive species
  • A mechanical fish made of recycled plastic and hollow aluminum that would collect plastic and garbage that is floating in the ocean
  • Mini worm drones that would be dispatched into contaminated soil, to filter the oil out of the soil
  • A car that runs on water. The hydrogen and oxygen would be compressed and separated The hydrogen would be the fuel and the oxygen would be released through the exhaust pipe
  • A contraption that grinds garbage with carbon dioxide that would help produce an alternative to concrete when mixed with water
  • A water filter to improve the PH balance in waterways everywhere to help fix the problem of ocean water acidification

Judges were once again amazed by the creativity and ideas! Thank you to all the participants and teachers who made this contest a success.

Stay tuned for the next Kootenay Contraption Contest and our upcoming online GLOWS programs. Check out for more info.


Trafalgar School entries

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