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Kiel Strang - a scholarly success story

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of stories about people who were raised on the Sunshine Coast who are making a successful mark in the world of their chosen vocations.

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of stories about people who were raised on the Sunshine Coast who are making a successful mark in the world of their chosen vocations. Some are residents of the Coast while others have left to pursue their dreams.

Two weeks away from his 18th birthday, Kiel Strang is living a dream for six weeks this summer.

A life-long science aficionado, Kiel's interest in physics is what's powered him to a TRIUMF Fellowship at Canada's national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics research and related sciences.

This has been a busy week for the young man who graduated under the auspices of the Sunshine Coast Alternative School Outreach program. Primarily home-schooled for the past 12 years, Kiel is the recipient of the University of B.C. major entrance scholarship as well as the prestigious Canada-wide Loran Award given to only 30 students annually. The Loran is a four-year undergraduate award that provides life-changing opportunities for young people.

Those awards, plus the four bursaries the enterprising young man realized from the Alternative School, will fund Kiel's studies at UBC. He plans to study science for the first year and then transfer into engineering physics, studying applied design, which also "uses cutting-edge physics" but would still provide an option for theoretical physics.

He's "nervous and excited, but mostly excited" about his transition to university in September. One problem he doesn't anticipate having is researching - he's been doing it all through his school years.

Kiel is the son of Al and Wendi Strang of Roberts Creek. Since early childhood, his parents have allowed Kiel to take his studies where his interest and passion dictated. And from a very early age, that direction pointed to all things scientific.

At age six, Kiel recalled being interested in the plight of chimpanzees being trained in American sign language. Unwilling to just read about the program, Kiel became a fundraiser for the cause. Another of his early interests, outer space, has resulted in Kiel's participation in the Robotics program.

"Lego Robotics got me interested at five [years]. I've been part of a Robotics team for the past eight years. It's really amazing to take a massive challenge with different criteria every year and after a few months to see what you can do with that [challenge]," Kiel explained.

For the past three years, he and different teammates have gone to the world championships of Robotics, and this year in St. Louis, Kiel and friend Ryden Custance placed second in the world in their category. Kiel is hoping to compete next year in a college-level pilot program.

Another of Kiel's passions is the violin; 11 years ago he heard the Coast String Fiddlers play for the first time and was hooked. He began lessons and a year later joined the Fiddlers. Through his many interests, Kiel has never had a problem meeting and making friends. And while some home-schooled students may lack social opportunities, Kiel has never had that problem.

Another of his many interests is water-based sport. He enjoys kayaking and scuba diving.

This promises to be a hectic summer for Kiel. The TRIUMF scholarship, one of three awarded, will provide an opportunity for Kiel to work alongside Cornelia Hoehr. At TRIUMF, Hoehr supervises a staff of three in the operation and maintenance of the TR-13 cyclotron. Kiel will have an opportunity under Hoehr's tutelage to learn about nuclear medicine experiments. Hoehr's main focus is the TR-13, which produces medical isotopes for use in cancer and other diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Where does he see himself in 10 years?

"Probably still at university or working at my dream job at General Fusion [Inc.]," he predicted.

For now it's on to the next frontier for this stellar student.