Academy of Science & Cuny Showcase HS Science Projects
of high-school students carrying giant pieces of posterboard traipsed
through the gates of the City College of New York recently to
take part in the 65th annual New York City Science and Engineering
Fair. High-school seniors presented the results of months of sophisticated
research with professional mentors while a number of 9th and 10th
grade students arrived with elaborate project proposals in hand,
searching for mentors of their own. A total of 861 students from
public, private and parochial schools in all five boroughs competed
for over $180,000 in prizes and awards.
While the $10,000 grand prize was certainly an incentive to participate
in the science fair, most students were motivated mainly by the
opportunity to showcase their work and expand their educational
Howard Schneider, a science teacher at Curtis High School in Staten
Island, came to serve as a judge as well as to show his support
for students from his science research class who were there presenting
their projects. As Freshman, Curtis students have the opportunity
to participate in a school-wide science fair, and students with
promising projects are then encouraged to continue their work
in the research course. Students representing Curtis High School
at the science fair were there with “the best projects in the
class,” Schneider said proudly.
The projects were organized by topic and ranged from behavioral
science and botany to zoology. The students, smartly dressed,
stood beside their projects, ready and willing to explain their
scientific processes to judges and passers-by.
Anna Wong, a senior at the Bronx High School of Science, worked
with Dr. Becky Gee at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus
to research the effectiveness of vanadia-tungsten catalyst, a
substance that proved useful in accelerating the breakdown of
harmful airborne substances. Although Wong says that she plans
to be a humanities major, her experience working with an x-ray
difractometer will certainly make her college application stand
out from the rest.
Rosanna Reda, a 10th grader at Francis Lewis High School in Queens,
presented a project proposal on the relation between a woman’s
lifestyle and her risk for developing breast cancer. Roda’s background
research has already led her to believe that high melatonin levels
resulting from exposure to light at nighttime increase a woman’s
risk for developing breast cancer. She hopes to study the effects
of other risk factors, such as stress and alcohol consumption,
and to continue her project under the guidance of a mentor.
want to educate women about prevention,” explained Reda, who hopes
to become “a breast cancer consultant and to teach women to educate
women.” She believes that “education is the best prevention.”
Monica Vazirani, an 11th grader at Franklin Knight Lane High School,
was also at the science fair to present a project proposal and
search for a mentor. She has been collecting information about
possible genetic causes for patterns of adolescent behavior. Like
most scientific discoveries, Vazirani’s project began with a troublesome
question: Why do parents seem to understand the motivations behind
teenage behavior while teenagers themselves often don’t? Vazirini
began to suspect that genetics might play a role in human behavioral
and psychological development after having learned about the spread
of disease through the human genome. “If diseases could be passed
on by genetics, what if behavior has something to do with genetics?”
As the students were setting up their displays in the auditorium,
volunteer judges met in teams and discussed the day’s task over
a catered breakfast. Over 220 scientists and engineers, had volunteered
to serve as judges for the Science Fair.
For the second year in a row, MIT alumni in the New York area
served as judges. Approximately 20 MIT alums were in attendance
that morning, said Stacy Nemeroff, the alumna who organized the
group. “It’s a way for them to
reconnect with what excites them most – science and technology,”
Paul Sirotto, of Sun Chemical in New Jersey, has been a Science
Fair judge for “a long time.”
love to judge,” says Sirotto, “The kids have some novel ideas.
You see really interesting presentations.”#
Holmes is an intern at Education Update and a senior at Columbia
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