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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A 13-year-old scholar shares her research experiences

I noticed that sometimes after using a hand dryer my ears would start ringing. At first I didn’t really pay attention to it, but then I wondered if they were too loud, and that was why my ears were hurting. Also, I noticed that in many cases, when children were in washrooms with hand dryers, the children would be covering their ears and didn’t want to use the hand dryers since they thought they were too loud. Many parents seemed to be acting as if they thought that their child was just overreacting, but I wondered if maybe the dryers actually were too loud for kids’ ears.

To find out, I measured how loud hand dryers were in public washrooms across Alberta, Canada. I measured the loudness from different heights and distances from the dryers, including at the height of children’s ears. Often, I would drive around looking for washrooms with hand dryers, and sometimes, even if I spent a whole day looking, I would find only two. Those times would be very frustrating for me, and I would often wonder if I was making the right choice. I could have been home, biking, playing outside, hanging out with my friends, and having fun, but instead I had spent the whole day driving around looking for and testing hand dryers. My whole family supported me, and encouraged me to keep on going. Without them, I am almost certain that I would have given up, and not been inspired to write a paper. Another big obstacle that I faced was as I was developing a prototype to reduce the noise of hand dryers. The prototype that I developed was a continuation of my previous science fair projects. I made a prototype (a model that reduced the noise of the hand dryer) out of a furnace air filter. I attached it below one of the hand dryers. It was a tube shape and you put your hands under the tube and the tube absorbed the sound. I had built/sewed by hand 12 different prototypes. As you can imagine, that took a very long time, as I had to measure, cut, shape, and stitch; it was hard and tiring. I then tested the prototypes. One of my main objectives for the prototype was that it wouldn’t trigger the motion sensor, since it would be impractical if the prototype triggered the motion sensor and the dryer was running all the time. However, even though I had measured, 11 of the 12 prototypes set off the sensor. I felt terrible. Only one prototype didn’t trigger the motion sensor, and it barely reduced the noise at all. Worst of all, I felt like an absolute failure. I was completely ready to give up. But then, I thought of all the scientists in the world, for instance, Thomas Edison who made 1,000 light bulbs before one of them worked out. He never gave up, so neither did I.

I decided to write a paper since I thought that my results were important. A main thing though was that my sister had written a letter to the editor that got published in Paediatrics & Child Health as well, and it was titled “What kids think about boys getting the HPV vaccine as well as girls,” and it was about her science fair project. I think that my sister really motivated me, because she had written this when she was in grade 5, and she was only 10 years old, and at that time, she was the youngest person to ever get published in a peer-reviewed journal. I thought that that was just incredible (as it is), and I looked up to her so much. So when some of my judges at the city science fair suggested that I write a paper since they thought that my results were good, I started thinking about it seriously, since I saw that my sister was able to do it, so why couldn’t I?

I can still clearly remember the moment, I was grabbing my binders from my locker at school, since it was almost the end of lunch, and then I glanced down at my phone, and I saw that an email was on the screen, and it said that my paper was accepted. I was so shocked, I just sat on the ground, and leaned against my locker, so surprised that my paper was accepted, and I remember thinking all the way through classes that afternoon: I am so excited! My paper is accepted! When I got home and told my family the news, they were all super excited for me.

I hope that kids will try to question things, and if they have a question to go and find the answer, and to prove your answer. I also hope that kids will learn the lesson to never give up, and to keep on going no matter what. Sometimes you feel like quitting, and giving up, but I hope that kids will try not to give up, because for every struggle, there is a triumph, no matter how small. I also hope that kids and girls will not let anyone tell them what they can or can’t do, it is up to themselves to decide those limits, and I hope the limits that they decide for themselves are non-existent.

Image courtesy of author.

Recent Comments

  1. Niko Pfund

    Nora, this is one of the most impressive and enjoyable articles I’ve read in a long time. Truly inspirational.

  2. Diala Chouaib

    Well done Nora! You should be proud of yourself and your efforts because you are making a difference.

  3. Rahul Sharma

    Nora, This was factually inspirational article. You explain everything in such a good manner. Your efforts is great and it is totally based on your regular improvement in yourself. thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Walker Lino Ale

    Super proud of you Nora. So young and clever. God bless and much love to you and your family ❤️🙏😊

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