By Sarah Lawson | LSU Student
Passing through the long rows of hundreds of project setups in LSU's Cotillion Ballroom, high school students could be heard discussing everything from bird anatomy to oil spill cleanup, their eyes on shiny trophies, cash awards, even a trip to Los Angeles.
They jerked as passers-by rounded the corners near their display boards, anxious their judgment time had arrived.
LSU Continuing Education hosted the Louisiana Science and Engineering Fair senior level in its Student Union. Winners of the state's regional fairs made it to the state competition at LSU where some qualified for the International Science Fair in Los Angeles to be held in May.
The junior level competed the day before.
Steve Richard, Comeaux High School junior from Youngsville, let out a loud whoop when the emcee announced judging was over. His project centered on the benefits of Duckweed, the green carpet-like vegetation that covers many lakes and ponds.
"Duck weed grows in all our lakes and ponds — it's the smallest [flowering plant] known to man," said Richard as he likened the foliage's size to his pen tip.
Projects topics ranged from Houma Junior High freshman Mary Burlette's laundry detergent test to a flyable quadrotor.
Girls ruled the high school competition, winning the majority of the category and special award sections. All-girls school St. Joseph's Academy in Baton Rouge took the top school award for most total points.
Kevin Grobman, LSU assistant psychology professor and science fair organizer, said entry quality has improved in the five years he's proctored the event.
"Every year the projects are extraordinary. It's amazing what the high school students can do, especially when they get to state. Even over the last five years, there's been an improvement in statistical and mathematical rigor," Grobman said. "Every year there are different hot topics. A lot of people focus on things that have been in the news."
This year's most common themes included teenagers and texting while driving and multiple projects assessing localized effects of the BP oil spill.
And some of the topics were so practical, they are already being put to good use.
Sixteen-year-old Tucker Baker's findings are being utilized by his teachers at Holy Savior Menard High School in Alexandria. Baker, who won a special award and second place in behavioral science, studied the effect of environment changes on students by gender.
As he changed room temperatures, layouts and teacher positions over a month, he recorded student responses to their comfort levels. Now, one of his teachers asks students in what areas of the room they learn better before settling seating arrangements.
Trevail Bolden, a freshman at Lighthouse Christian High School in Abbeville, came with a complicated subject: the nematostella vectensis. But he really showed off the hunting patterns of a starlet sea anemone.
"I've been doing science fair since sixth grade. The first time I did it I went to state. I like that feeling — it's like an adrenaline rush," said Bolden of the judging.
Joshua Springer, Baton Rouge high senior and son of Jeff and Jane Springer, spent 300 hours constructing his creation for electrical/mechanical engineering — a working quadrotor. But it was hard to tell if he was more exhausted from his lengthy preparation and judging process or his multiple trips to the stage for awards.
"It flies a lot like a helicopter," said Springer of his contraption with two crossed rods and four propellers. "There's a lot of things you have to control really accurately that a human can't do. So I got a microprocessor to do it."
In his exhibition, he explained he built and programmed the project himself, but he expressed his anxiety about competing with projects that took years to develop, like one student who conducted experiments on bone disease or Young's chopstick experiment she started in August 2010.
"You know, how are you going to go against that?" Springer said. "I don't feel bad about getting beat by them."
Springer, Young and Junru Yan, the Benjamin Franklin High School student from New Orleans who worked with osteosarcomas, would all take first place in their respective categories.
SENIOR LEVEL WINNERS:
1st — Alexandra Badeaux, Catholic High School - New Iberia
2nd — Morgan L. DeCuir, St. Joseph's Academy
3rd — Channing B. LaLande, South Cameron High School
Behavioral / Social Sciences:
1st — Marianne V. Konikoff, Our Lady of Mercy School
2nd — Tucker J. Baker, Holy Savior Menard Central High School
3rd — Callie Johnson, St. Joseph's Academy
1st — Yoonjee Kim & Daniel Felty, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
2nd — Margaret C. Talbot, St. Joseph's Academy
3rd — Anna E. Nesterova, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
Cellular / Molecular Biology:
1st — Clair L. Chapman, St. Joseph's Academy
2nd — James A. Young, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
3rd — N'Desha T. Scott, C.E. Byrd High School
1st — Allie C. Young, St. Joseph's Academy
2nd — Boyang Piao, Cedar Creek School
3rd — Luke A. White, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
1st — Taylor Adams & Brianna Crabtree, John Ehret High School
2nd — Daniel N. Wheeler, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
3rd — Sahil H. Patel, Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies
Earth / Planetary Science:
1st — Melissa A. Guarisco, St. Joseph's Academy
2nd — Ayla D. Miller, Benjamin Franklin High School
3rd — Sarah Use, H.L. Bourgeois High School
Engineering: Materials, Bioengineering:
1st — Neesha Siriwardane, Ruston High School
2nd — Olivia S. Campbell, Lighthouse Christian High School
3rd — Philipe M. Gilchrist, John Curtis Christian School
Electrical / Mechanical Engineering:
1st — Joshua D. Springer, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
2nd — Clark R. Pierce, Ruston High School
3rd — Cole C. Weinland, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
1st — Rithika M. Thirumal & Samantha Biddick, Ovey Comeaux High School
2nd — Annie C. Talbot, St. Joseph's Academy
3rd — Eileen DeLeo, St. Joseph's Academy
Energy & Transportation:
1st — Kinga J. Malkinska, Benjamin Franklin High School
2nd — Caleb G. Gestes, John Curtis Christian School
3rd — Warner T. King, home schooled
1st — Mitchell G. Hartley, John Curtis Christian School
2nd — Alaina B. Leggette, St. Joseph's Academy
3rd — Caroline E. Grand & Caroline Focht, St. Joseph's Academy
1st — Ruth A. Bishop, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
2nd — Frank H. Luo, Baton Rouge Magnet High School
3rd — Caitlin T. Mikesell, Hahnville High School
Medicine / Health Sciences:
1st — Junru Yan, Benjamin Franklin High School
2nd — Justine Ker, Cedar Creek School
3rd — Michael C. McDowell & Elly Bringaze, Catholic High School - Baton Rouge
1st — Ethan T. Skaggs, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
2nd — Catherine A. Vanchiere, Loyola College Preparatory School
3rd — Maggie Wakefield, St. Joseph's Academy
Physics & Astronomy:
1st — Jeffrey A. Parrozzo, Academics Etc.
2nd — Henry Lin, Caddo Parish Magnet High School
3rd — Morgan A. Miller, St. Joseph's Academy
1st — Ashley N. Schoonmaker, St. Joseph's Academy
2nd — Katie A. Chiasson & Brianna Bourgeois, St. James High School
3rd — Abigail J. Olinde, Benjamin Franklin High School
Top School: St. Joseph's Academy
1st — Biochemistry: Yoonjee Kim & Daniel Felty, Caddo Parish Magnet
2nd — Microbiology: Ethan T. Skaggs, Caddo Parish Magnet
American Meteorological Society — Alexandra K. Badeaux, Morgan L. DeCuir
ASM Materials Education Foundation — Philipe M. Gilchrist
Intel Excellence in Computer Science — Bohyung K. Park
International Sustainable World Project Olympiad — Carrington C. Cain
Iota Sigma Pi — Allie C. Young
Louisiana Science Teachers Assoc. — 1. Tucker J. Baker, 2. Emily N. Covington, 3. Marianne V. Konikoff, 4. Sujung Lee
Louisiana Assoc. of Mathematics Teachers — 1. Caitlin T. Mikesell, 2. Ruth A. Bishop, 3. Sujung Lee
Louisiana Mosquito Association — Morgan L. DeCuir
Mu Alpha Theta — Joshua D. Springer
National Assoc. of Professional Engineers — Joshua D. Springer
Society for In-Vitro Biology — Trevail Bolden
U.S. Air Force — 1. Jade A. Spears, 2. Yoonjee Kim, 3. Mason G. DeLapp
U.S. Army — Carrington C. Cain, Warner T. King, Joshua D. Springer, Junru Yan
U.S. Metric Assoc. — Annie C. Talbot