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Patricia Rea Wins GOLD!

We are so proud of Patricia Rea, who just happens to be a STEM Kids Rock STEM Squad Member, public speaker, junior editor, and a grade 8 student at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Elementary School located in Unionville, Ontario! Patricia recently competed at the York Region Science and Technology Fair which was held at York University. Patricia was at the fair last year and brought home a Bronze Medal and left the fair determined to come back and win GOLD and that is exactly what she did! The Gold Medalist will be competing at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton, New Brunswick from May 11 - May 17th and collaborating with Canada's brightest, science minded students!

Patricia's project is, "BioGrade Yeast: Biomanufacturing with Antrifreeze-Yeast on Mars". Here's a little bit about her project, the hard work and dedication put into it, and the obstacles she came up against:

  • Patricia basically had the rough concept for this year’s science fair before going to the regionals last year – when she did her first genetic engineering experiment, transforming yeast with a Green Fluorescent Protein and testing survival at various temperatures at home. She was inspired by seeing a video on CRISPR on YouTube – and her teacher encouraged her to ‘shoot for the moon’ when proposing it as her science fair project last year.

  • This year she researched and selected two Antifreeze Proteins and genetically engineered them into yeast. She then tested to see if her samples could survive extreme cold, similar to that of temperatures on Mars. Since yeast is very portable and has been genetically engineered to produce plastics and foods, it could make an ideal biofactory for Mars colonists. Her long-term goal is to create a strain of yeast that could survive an environmental failure of a Martian biosphere.

  • She knew she had to develop a lot of skills (from better genetic engineering skills, to conducting cell lysis and protein extraction) to achieve what she wanted, and was fortunate to find an amazing mentor in Dr. Justin Pahara (who gave her the opportunity to be a Junior Editor of Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero, which he co-authored with Julie Legault at Amino Labs).

  • After completing the experiments in the book as Junior Editor she started work on her project in October, with Dr. Pahara teaching her how to research proteins, reverse engineer genes from proteins, and how to conduct new lab procedures like gel electrophoresis and serial dilution. Lab work began in December.

  • She also received great mentoring from Amy Yeung (President of the U of T iGEM team) and Keoni Gandall (Bioengineering Research Assistant at Stanford – who reached out to Patricia after reading about her on the STEM Kids Rock Facebook page!). And Dr. Robert Tsushima (Chair of Biology at York U) generously offered the use of the university’s -30C, -80C freezers, plus Liquid Nitrogen (-196C).

  • Over 400 agar petri dishes have been made in conducting the various experiments to date! From genetic engineering, to survival testing with serial dilution.

Along the way, Patricia discovered that getting hands on with science can open unexpected doors and opportunities. Science fairs allow kids to be actual scientists – getting hands on in pursuing curiosity – vs reading and learning science facts.

We couldn't be prouder of Patricia and wish her all the best at Canada-Wide Science Fair 2019!!! #AdAstra

You can follow Patricia on twitter at

Interested in Science Fair?

You can start to compete at regionals in grade 7!

First you would compete at your school's science fair, then the top science fair projects move to regionals (if your school doesn’t have a science fair, ask your science teacher if they’ll sponsor your project). Then the top projects at regionals move to nationals!

Live in York Region? This would be your Regional Science Fair:

Here is a link to Canada-Wide Science Fair:

STEM Kids Rock, cofounded by Aidan and Keeley Aird, saw the problem that many kids aren’t given the opportunity to explore science outside of school. STEM Kids Rock firmly believes that early and often exposure to science helps build the necessary foundation to stay on the STEM pathway through High School and beyond. The solution was to create the STEM Kids Rock Free Mobile Science Centre which brings science directly to all kids, no matter their background, and creates opportunities for kids to fall in love with science. The Free Mobile Science Centre comes to Schools & Conferences, Scouts & Guides, Camps Museums Community Centres, STEM / STEAM School Nights, Community Events, Children’s Festivals, and Elementary School Fun Fairs. Over the past five years they have provided over 300 free events that have engaged over 150,000 participants. With over 75 youth volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, STEM Kids Rock is a great place to learn and belong. We are proud to provide peer-based empowerment & training programs through our kids teaching kids movement. Interested in volunteering with us? Just sign up on our website and we will contact you about upcoming events.

Be sure to follow STEM Kids Rock at:

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