Smiths Falls students head to national science fair competition next monthPosted Apr 26, 2012 By EMC News
EMC News - As new drivers, SFDCI students Rob Fournier and Logan Burns decided to follow their hunch and create a computer program to see how texting, cell phones and other distractions impact a person's ability to drive. What they learned is that the provincial government's on the right track.
The boys' work revealed, not surprisingly, that hand-held electronics reduce a person's ability to react behind the wheel. They then went one step further to find that even hands-free devices as well as conversations with others in the car have a negative impact on driver reaction.
The two spent months using programming language to develop a program to provide 30 random letters that almost 70 individuals - aged 13 to 88 - were asked to type using one finger. These results were then qualified by using what the boys call the "distraction factor" or the concentration level when distracted minus the concentration level with no distractions based on the 30-character test. The higher this factor is the more the activity distracts a driver.
"We're very proud of it," Fournier said of the project.
The boys tackled this project after being exposed to computer programming in their first course last semester.
"We were really interested in how we could use the language to help this and other areas," Fournier explained.
He added the opportunity to move on to nationals is especially important as it continues a family tradition.
"On a more personal note, my cousin Doug Fournier used to attend SFDCI and he went to the Canada-Wide in 2006. He was always somebody I looked up to and it's nice to be able to follow in his footsteps."
Their hope was to bring at least one award home, but they never expected to win Second Best of Fair and be selected to travel to Charlottetown May 12 to 19 for the national science fair competition.
"We're really happy to be able to represent Smiths Falls like this," Fournier said.
During the Rideau-St. Lawrence Science Fair held last weekend, the boys also came home with numerous specialty awards: Senior Health and Wellness Award, the Computer Science Award, the Senior Life Sciences Award and first place overall in the senior competition.
Fournier said the experiment shines a light on the government's current law allowing hands-free devices while driving, but added his recommendation would be to limit these and other activities like talking while driving as much as possible.
According to an Upper Canada District School Board press release, it was the data presented on the cell phones and its relevance in society today that made the project stand out to judges. Fair chair Rod Charlton said that because the issue of people driving while using cell phones is very much in the public eye, it struck a chord with judges.
Burns hopes to continue working in the science realm following his graduation from high school. Both students are in Grade 11 at SFDCI.
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