The 30th Annual Progress Energy Region IV Science Fair was held at UNC Pembroke on February 26.
At 30, the Science Fair remains a valuable tool for nurturing science among school children, said participants, their teachers and parents.
Tara Ivey’s daughter, 11-year-old Brooke Smith, from Lumberton was attending her first Science Fair. Her research asked if plants could grow successfully on grey water that she recycled from the family’s clothes washer.
Brooke said she was nervous when the judges, who were UNCP scientists, interviewed her. Her mother said she was even more nervous.
“Brooke has really enjoyed this, and we are already working on next year,” Ivey said. “It’s good to see the University is doing things like this for kids.”
Dr. Tom Ross, a UNCP geographer, was a judge for the 1981 Science Fair with founder Dr. Jose D’Arruda, a physicist and astronomer.
“I’ve judged all 30 of them,” Dr. Ross said. “I learn something every year.
“Oh yes, the Science Fair is well worth it,” he said. “This is the trigger of invention; this is the future of science.”
Dr. D’Arruda said the event was important to his own science career, and it reamins important in the development of young scientists.
“I had a very personal experience when I was in high school, and I believe it was my participation in science fairs that steered me to a career in science and, ultimately, changed my life,” Dr. D’Arruda said.
“I believe that the UNCP Science Fair will continue to be a successful enterprise with co-directors Drs. Tim Ritter and Brian Postek, and with the dedicated assistance of Carolyn Parsons, Cecelia Locklear and all the judges.”
The green shoots of scientific discovery were evident everywhere. Kaylen Cutler’s grandfather passed away recently from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.
“I am studying how copper affects the blood and may be a co-factor in Alzheimer’s,” said Cutler, who is home schooled.
North Carolina Project SEED was represented by four high school students with solid research projects. SEED is a public-private consortium dedicated to nurturing promising young scientists.
“We’ve worked very hard on our research,” said Frank Tillman of Terry Sanford High School. “Besides learning research, we’ve learned basic lab techniques.”
The group’s hard work paid off. SEED member, Joshua Harris of SandHoke Early College, won the top prize with his project “The Docking and Design of Ligands of HIV-1 Protease Using Virtual Screening.”
Kayla Robinson, who is home schooled in Harnett County, won the McDonald’s Award and $500 for her crime scene investigation using blood and Luminol, “a chemo-luminescent compound,” she said.
“Whether I win or not, I think it’s been a good experience,” she said before the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year.”
Her mother, Leslie, put in a good word for the event.
“I just wanted to thank the University for doing this and allowing home school students to participate,” Robinson said. “We love science at our house - my husband and I are engineers - so this is a natural for us.”
Robert Meggs said he was very nervous when the judges interviewed him about his project, “Fire in the Forest.”
“I learned that burned-over forest re-grows faster because there is not as much competition for the pine seedlings,” Meggs explained. “My dad is a forest ranger, and I like being outdoors.”
Meggs, who represented the Clarkton School of Discovery, made several trips to the awards platform after winning first place in the Junior Earth/Environmental Science Division.
UNCP’s Newswire also interviewed several teachers who prepared students for the Science Fair. They had different strategies.
Steve Schrock of Overhills Middle School in Harnett County had three students in the competition.
“We held science fairs at each grade level, then the school level,” Schrock said. “The ones who are here today are the students who are really interested in science, and they get a lot out of this.”
Sharon Luellen and Matt Howington of Carroll Middle School in Lumberton got their school excited about science.
“A lot of kids came out, and you get to see who is really dedicated,” Howington said. “Our kids put in the extra effort, and from what I saw, it is definitely worth doing.”
“We started a Science Club with the goal of getting the kids ready for the Science Fair,” Luellen said.
“Nathan Stack of Alderman Road Elementary School in Cumberland County said it was a “great” day.
“Before coming here, we had a school science fair that DuPont judged for us,” Stack said.
Jennifer Kuechle, a third-grade teacher at Elizabeth Cashwell Elementary School in Cumberland County, said her school held different events throughout the school to promote science and the Science Fair.
“We have a science resource teacher who worked with all the kids on the scientific method,” Kuechle said. “I have really enjoyed this; it’s a beautiful campus.”
The day began and 7:30 a.m. and included campus tours and other events. Winners advance to the state competition in April.
The Region IV Science Fair was sponsored by Progress Energy. Prizes where contributed by McDonald’s Restaurants/Rust Enterprises, Lumber River Electric Membership Cooperative, UNCP’s Biotechnology Center, COMtech, Metcon Construction of Pembroke and the U.S. Navy.
Here are the winners:
Elementary Division Honorable Mention Anna Kuzma, Academy Heights Elementary Madeline Shewmaker, Lafayette Elementary Layne Randolph, Johnsonville Elementary McKnight Pope, Carroll Middle Adrianne Caudill, Green Ridge Elementary Brittany Ward, Carroll Middle Callie Lewis, Bladenboro Primary Andrew Gill, Elizabethtown Primary
Elementary Winners (advance to the state) Andrew Esterly, Alderman Road Elementary Olivia Barnes, Elizabethtown Primary Sarah Meares, Bladen Lakes Primary Taylor Jessup, Elizabethtown Middle Dane Faulkner, Long Hill Elementary Mary Vorder Bruegge, home school Grace Thompson, Armstrong Elementary Wade Williams, Armstrong Elementary
Junior Biological Science A Honorable Mention: Erick Guerro, Sanford-Lee Middle 3rd Place: Brandon Wheeler, Western Harnett Middle 2nd Place: Grace McNeill & Meredith Dickens, Western Harnett Middle 1st Place: Emily Scott, Clarkton School of Discovery
Junior Biological Science B Honorable Mention: Anna Grace Long, Clarkton School of Discovery 3rd Place: Kasslynn Ansted, Sanford-Lee Middle 2nd Place: Jade Noble, East Hoke Middle 1st Place: Olivia Manning, Western Harnett Middle
Junior Earth/Environmental Science Honorable Mention: Emily Moffitt, Western Harnett Middle 3rd Place: Maurico Winston, East Hoke Middle 2nd Place: Cody Kaplan, East Hoke Middle 1st Place: Robert Meggs, Clarkton School of Discovery
Junior Technology/Engineering Honorable Mention: Joshua Ferdandez, East Hoke Middle 3rd Place: Luke Foushee, Sanford-Lee Middle 2nd Place: Ashima Varma, Harnett Central Middle 1st Place: Abby Norris, Clarkton School of Discovery
Senior Chemistry Honorable Mention: Kayla Robinson, home school Honorable Mention: Jasmine Dunham, E.E. Smith High 3rd Place: Frank Tillman, Terry Sanford High 2nd Place: Kaylen Cutler, 1st Place: Joshua Harris, SandHoke Early College
Senior Earth/Environmental Science 1st Place: Emily Meggs, East Bladen High School
Senior Technology 2nd Place: Megan Chavis, home school 1st Place: Calvin McGilvary Jr., Hoke High
McDonald’s Award Kayla Robinson, home school
Junior Navy Awards Miller Heustess, Clarkton School of Discovery Jade Noble, East Hoke Middle Natalie Hardin, Clarkton School of Discovery
Senior Navy Awards Jasmine Dunham, E.E. Smith High School Kayla Robinson, home school
Biotechnology Center Award Christian McNeill, Alderman Road Elementary
Lumbee River EMC Award Layne Randolph, Johnsonville Elementary Abby Norris, Clarkton School of Discovery Megan Chavis, home school Matt Epps of LREMC