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Branksome Hall News

Alum Wins Prizes for Lake Detoxification Solutions

Faces of Impact
Siena IANNI-PALARCHIO’20 is the daughter of Branksome's very own Michael, who is Head, Innovation & Strategic Projects. The third-year student at the University of Western Ontario’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Program credits Branksome with instilling her love of STEM, and knows iCAST will light that path for even more students.
The third-year student in the University of Western Ontario’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Program is winning awards for her innovative-design team’s plans to detoxify Lake Erie, declared a “dead lake” because unregulated agricultural run-off has caused massive algal blooms and few organisms can survive in the water. Her eventual career goal is to create equitable distribution of clean drinking water to Indigenous and other under-served communities.

Siena’s design-innovation team took home a top award at the Canadian Engineering Competition in February and also won the Western Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship Final Pitch Competition in March. The six-student team designed a retro-fitted barge system to remove the algal blooms and then used them as a source of carbon-neutral biofuel. 

Siena credits Branksome Hall for setting her up for success, citing life-shaping teachers and experiences. She spent countless hours after school with the Robotics team, assembling and disassembling robots for competitions. 

When we shared with Siena the plans for iCAST, she was thrilled. In particular, she thought a dedicated space for robotics was an amazing idea. “I wish we’d had that when I was there,” she says. “I can imagine how students passing through, who didn’t think robotics was for them, would pass by, pivot and be inspired to give it a try. Any way we can inspire more women to go into STEM is a great evolution of Branksome’s programming.”  

Michael couldn’t be prouder of Siena, her comfort level and achievement in this male-dominated space. “She’s doing great things,” he says. “It’s never been more critical to graduate students who are prepared to drive innovation, whether it’s climate issues or any aspect of societal change, and iCAST is a game-changer in this regard.”
We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.