2008 Science & Engineering Fair Tops Expectations!
2008 has been an incredible year for Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair! In times of budget cut backs and new standards of school accountability, schools struggle to “do it all.” Thanks to generous funding from Seagate, leadership from the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and the volunteer efforts of 159 scientists, researchers, and educators, the K-12 teachers were able to support a science fair that broke all previous records. 432 students—from kindergarten to high school—competed in fourteen different categories, filling every inch of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium with 382 innovative student projects. Topics ranged from “Hexapod Robotics” to “Mercury Levels in Tuna Cat Food.”
On March 17th, the Science & Engineering Fair Awards ceremony was held and students received over $14,000 in monetary awards from Seagate. In addition, Seagate will donate $100 to each of the 48 students who qualified to attend the 2008 California State Science & Engineering Fair in Los Angeles and fully fund the four finalists who will be attending the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. This event will provide a forum for more than 1500 students from 53 nations who will compete for high stakes scholarships and international recognition. Awards were also given by Plantronics, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), The Armed Services, the Society of Women Geoscientists, and Intel.
This year Science & Engineering Fair celebrates the addition of six new schools participating at the fair. First time fair participants from Radcliff Elementary were recognized as category winners in chemistry and received special recognition from IEEE. Science teacher, Susan Manabe, was recognized as the Outstanding Science & Engineering Fair Teacher for 2008. As she guided her first time students from Radcliff Elementary through the process, she also catalyzed support from parents and other faculty members to have as many of her students ready for the county fair as possible. Students from Radcliff presented her with bouquets of flowers as she received well deserved recognition.
Because of the high participation rate and award winning status of many of the projects, 40 qualified for the California State Science & Engineering Fair in May. Returning to the state science fair this year are Ella Madsen and Rose Leopold from Pacific Collegiate School. For three years they have expanded upon their project to validate and mitigate pollutants on our county beaches. The judges were especially impressed with their longitudinal data collection and the potential to help protect our environment. Judges admired Spring Hill Elementary student Natalya Dreszer’s “Algae to the Rescue” project that highlights the importance of looking at organic ways to abate greenhouse gases. Another outstanding project was submitted by Asta Davidsdottir, from Bonny Doon Elementary, whose project “Albino Plants” caught the attention of researchers with its thorough investigation of the effect of aminotriazole (ATA), an herbicide, on oxalis (“clover”). Her experiment demonstrated the result of the ATA turning the plants white and inhibiting chlorophyll synthesis. Clearly the students participating in the Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair know and understand their research and provide us with new ways of thinking and the potential of solving problems.
This year four students will be attending the International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta, Georgia (ISEF). Santa Cruz High School student Shamik Mascharak’s winning entry in the chemistry division explored a new opportunity to fingerprint without the use of toxins. He confirmed his hypothesis that genipin, a naturally occurring compound found in the fruits of the gardenia plant, can be used to detect latent fingerprints in an environmentally safe manner and can be used to detect amino acids, peptides, and proteins in solution. In the zoology category, Emily Dolson and Sanaya Forbes of San Lorenzo Valley High School investigated the influence of human behavior on the sea otter population. They concluded that disruption to the sea otter population by humans is altering the animals’ natural behavior and therefore current law and its enforcement are not sufficient to protect this vital animal. Pacific Collegiate School student Marie Nielsen’s computer science project predicted the ability of brute force password decrypters to decode passwords and then compared the predicted decoding times with experimental results.
Science & Engineering Fair affirms that when students have the opportunity to apply the scientific method to topics that truly intrigue them, they respond with fresh ideas and innovative research. Students continue to amaze our scientific community with thought provoking questions and enthusiastic, insightful approaches to investigating hypotheses. Santa Cruz County celebrates the teachers, students, and community volunteers who are laying the groundwork for new solutions to the challenges of the 21st Century.