Michelle Wehrle presents her award winning research on the most effective way to wash fruit in order to prolong its shelf life.

SBHS Sophomores Earn Recognition at VSTEMF and Advance to National Competitions

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Thursday April 07, 2016

The annual Vermont Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Fair (VSTEMF) was held March 19 at Norwich University in Northfield. Among those presenting at VSTEMF, were 45 South Burlington High School (SBHS) students led by their research biology teacher Nathanial Moore. The students presented their research projects on a wide range of topics and ended the day with a total of 35 awards, medals, and nominations.

According to Moore, the students began brainstorming research questions related to the fields of biology, physiology, psychology, sociology, and engineering at the beginning of the school year . He adds, “Some students came up with ideas on their own while others met with experts in the community, including meeting with faculty from the University of Vermont to develop a project.” Students then had until the science fair to plan their experiment, collect and analyze data, troubleshoot and modify procedures when needed, formulate conclusions, and ultimately present their findings to judges and the public at Norwich University.

VSTEMF judges recognized the young researchers’ diligent work with 19 out of 41 projects receiving at least one award and some of those projects receiving multiple recognitions. Of particular mention are Moore’s students Sabrina Choudhary, Aida Arms, Avi Cohen, Katie Young, and Sergiu White whose research earned them all-expense-paid trips to compete at subsequent science fairs.

Sophomores Choudhary and Arms will be traveling to the International Sustainable World (Energy, Engineering, and Environment) Project Science Fair in Houston, Texas later this month. Choudhary researched “The Effect of Density of Fish on Plant Growth Rate in an Aquaponics System” and Arms looked at “How Different Levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Affect Cyanobacteria Growth.”

Also in tenth grade, Cohen and Young were nominated to compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair held this May in Phoenix, Arizona. Cohen conducted research on “The Effects of Hydroponic and Drip Irrigation on Kale and Lettuce Growth” while Young looked at “The Effect of Malathion on Human Epithelial Bronchial Cell DNA.” Both students conducted their research at UVM where they worked along-side graduate students and faculty researchers.  

Finally, Cohen’s project along with fellow sophomore Sergiu White’s project were selected to compete at the GENIUS Olympiad, an international high school project competition about environmental issues. The Olympiad, held in Oswego, New York, will be in June. White studied “Simplistic DNA Extraction from Fruits,” where he used different methods of extracting DNA and then compared the purity of the samples that resulted.    

In addition, these awards and medals were won by SBHS sophomores: The U. S. Air Force Award to Sydney A. Ferro, Benjamin Moran, Sergui White, and Willow Yager. The Green Mountain Water Environment Association Award to Josie G. Ford and Aida Arms. The American Meteorological Society Award to Josie G. Ford. The VSSMF High School Agriculture Award to Michelle A. Wehrle. The Biophysical Society Award to Sergui White. The National Aeronautics & Space Award to Patrick O’Hara, David Yi, and Justin King. The Yale Science & Engineering Association Award to Liam A. Lustberg. The Ricoh Sustainable Development Award and the American Society of Materials Sci Award to Brandon J. Lee and Killeen Fin. The Society for In-vitro Biology Award to Aida Arms. The Vermont Organization of Nurse Leaders Award to Kyle M. McLane and Ryan Hockenbury. The American Society of Microbiology Award and the U. S. Navy Award to Katie Young. The U. S. Metric Association Award to Willow Yager. Gold medals were awarded to Sabrina Choudhary, Avi Cohen, Brandon J. Lee, and Killeen Fin. Silver medals were awarded to Josie G. Ford, Ananth Malladi, Amelia Pape, Michaela A. Sobczak, Kiran Waqar, Michelle A. Wehrle, and Claire E. Wright. Avi Cohen also was awarded a Castleton State College scholarship.

“From my perspective, the science fair is an incredible experience for students because they are charged with integrating many real life skills - reading, writing, math, science, communication (verbal, written, graphic), problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students have the freedom to choose a field of science that they are excited about and run with it as far as they want,” says Moore.

VSTEMF’s goal is to provide an exciting opportunity for aspiring scientists, grades 5 through 12, to showcase the results of their independent research. According to the fair’s website, each year science related professionals from across Vermont judge 250-student projects, which were selected from over 2,000 projects statewide. Students compete for more than $6,000 in cash and $14,000 in trip prizes donated by local organizations, and $900,000 in scholarships to Vermont colleges. The fair is also affiliated with the International Science and Engineering Fair, and five other national and international competitions, which awards additional prizes.

Also competing this year at VSTEMF were students from Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. FHTMS teachers Amelia Lutz and Chris Towle brought 32 students and Big Picture South Burlington’s teacher Jim Shields brought 10 students to the fair.