Photos: Mrs. Leya Joykutty

Science fair district winners headed to state competition

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One may not expect to see a district science fair competition taking place when entering Broward Mall, but this was the case Feb. 9. Various junior and senior high students took their projects and their A-game to the mall to compete in the science fair with projects they have been working on for months. The junior high competition took place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., while the senior high students participated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Students arrived and set up their projects the day before. On competition day, they received a number card and organized their stations. Four judges reviewed the project to complete the judging process. After the judge approached a student’s project and filled out a form, they looked at the research paper and log book. Then, the student presented the project to the judge. After the presentation, the judges proceeded to ask questions about the project, such as “How did you come up with your project?” and “What are the applications of this project?” After the four judges analyzed the project, they initialed a paper, and special award judges then took a look. Although these judges had no bearing on how students actually placed, they could grant a student an additional award or scholarship money.

Junior Lauren Waldman, one of the winners, shared her project and the process she took to succeed at districts. Her project used two species of beneficial bacteria to degrade toxic contaminants in water supplies. Over the summer, she participated in a summer program at Oregon State University where she researched bioremediation and became inspired to continue that research this year. Waldman worked on her project three to four days after school each week for about a month and a half.

“I’m excited that I’m going to states, and I’m hoping to win at states and attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair again. I won First Place in my category at states last year, and it would be really great to compete at the international level again after States again,” Waldman said.

Sophomore Rajat Ramesh was also among the first place winners. His project focused on improving the efficiency of fuel production from algae. “With the growing concern about the environmental impact and non-renewability of fossil fuels, algae can actually provide a very promising source for making fuel for the future,” he said. Ramesh spent about four to five months working on his project.

By introducing two genes to two freshwater algae species, he improved the lipid content in the algae, allowing, in turn, for higher quantity and better quality oil to be produced. In addition, the carbon absorbed that algae need to grow offset the carbon released in fuel production, so he determined that this can also assist in solving the issue of climate change.

“With all the research being done to improve medicine and other things pertaining to humans, I thought it would be best to pursue an environmental project because all those other advancements would be useless without a safe environment to live in,” Ramesh said.
Now that he’s made states, he has expressed gratitude for his friends and teachers that have helped him along the way.

The other first place winners include Anam Ahmed, Ephraim Oyetunji, Nicholas DiStefano, Emily Pallack, Hemangi Rajpal, Amber Bhutta, Stefan Abi-Karam, Lauren Waldman and Satya Alagarsamy. Eighth graders Yulene Oyarbide and Rohan Kumar won first place as well.

The winners look forward to heading to Lakeland, Fla. on March 27 to compete in the state competition.

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