Albemarle County Public Schools
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Albemarle County Public Schools students won two first places awards, a second place, and a third place in the 29th annual Virginia State Science & Engineering Fair, held on April 6 at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. Nearly 300 students from across the state offered 240 projects in 17 separate categories and in several special award categories.
Sydney Giacalone, an Albemarle High School senior, placed first in the Plant Sciences category, following up her Best in Show award from the Piedmont Regional Science & Engineering Fair in March. Sydney's project tested consumer food products for the presence of genetically modified ingredients (GMO) and compared those results to their product label. Sydney's research revealed that the labels often were incorrect about the presence of such ingredients and the amount in which they were present.
Xiaoran (Seamore) Zhu, a sophomore at Western Albemarle High School, finished first in the Material and Bioengineering category for his design and production of a nasal spirometer that can be used by asthmatics to test their volume of air flow. Currently such devices test for air flow through the mouth. Seamore's device can be used through the nose and allows asthma patients to self-diagnose their condition without the need to visit a hospital.
Sims Gautam, an Albemarle High School senior, earned second place in Mathematical Sciences for his project that designed an algorithm using abstract mathematics for distributing points on higher dimensional spheres.
Two Albemarle High School juniors, Molly Thomson and Elizabeth Rintels, were third place finishers in a special category sponsored by the Virginia Chapter of the American Water Works Association. Their project was a product development analysis for a device that would fit on shower heads and monitor the flow of water during a shower. The device would signal when water consumption reached various gallon-per-minute levels.
Two students, Ms. Giacalone and Mr. Gautam, will be competing in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona from May 12-17, by virtue of having won Best in Show honors at the Piedmont Regional Fair. More than 1,500 students from 70 different countries annually participate in the international competition.
All four Albemarle High School award winners are enrolled in Albemarle High School's Math, Engineering & Science Academy (MESA).
Jeff Prillaman, director of MESA, and Carol Stutzman, a chemistry teacher at Western Albemarle High School, said what especially was impressive in the research by the students was their creative focus on real-world needs. "Each one of the projects in the state competition and those entered in the regional competition as well, offer potential solutions to challenges in such highly relevant areas as energy, the environment and health," Mr. Prillaman and Ms. Stutzman said.
Albemarle County Public Schools students earned 11 first place awards in the high school division and 65 awards overall in the Piedmont Regional Science & Engineering Fair this year.