SPA had an exceptional showing at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair (TCRSF) held on March 2 and 3, 2018. All ten of the SPA students who competed in the TCRSF’s research paper and project competition were selected to move on to the state competition at the Minnesota Science and Engineering Fair. All ten student papers will also move on to North Central Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposia, as either participants or alternates. And SPA students swept both regional spots available for the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), widely regarded as the most prestigious science competition for high school students in the nation.
Eight of the ten students who competed are members of the Advanced Science Research (ASR) seminar, taught by Upper School science teacher Beth Seibel-Hunt; ASR gives SPA’s most advanced science students the opportunity to pursue an independent research project of their own choosing and design. Two of the ten are members of the Advanced Technology Projects (ATP) class, in which students design and pursue an independent computer science project; ATP is taught by Director of Computer Science and Engineering Dr. Kate Lockwood.
The sweep of ISEF spots is particularly exciting for Seibel-Hunt and Lockwood, since the spots were awarded to both an ASR student, Flannery Enneking-Norton ’18, and a team from the ATP class, Michael Hall ’18 and Daniel Ellis ’18 (see below for abstracts of both projects). In addition, the group’s projects and papers were recipients of the following honors and awards:
- 3M Film and Materials Resource Division Award: Michael Hall ’18 and Daniel Ellis ‘18
- 3M Commercial Solutions Award: Isabel Dieperink ’19 and Valerie Bares ’19 (St. Paul Central High School)
- City of Saint Paul Youth Fund Award: Sorcha Ashe ‘18
- Graduate Women in Science Writing Award (12th Grade Paper): Mira Zelle ‘18
- Minnesota American Society of Microbiology Award: Isabel Dieperink ’19 and Valerie Bares ’19 (St. Paul Central High School)
- Minnesota State Horticulture Award: Flannery Enneking-Norton ‘18
- US Department of Agriculture Award (12th Grade): Flannery Enneking-Norton ‘18
- US Air Force Award: Michael Hall ’18 and Daniel Ellis ‘18
- The Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award: Elsa Runquist ’18, Jeffrey Huang ’18, and Phillip Bragg ‘19
- American Meteorological Society Award: Elsa Runquist ‘18
- Arizona State University Walton Sustainability solutions Initiatives: Riley Will ’18 and Jeffrey Huang ‘18
- Mu Alpha Theta Award: Phillip Bragg ‘19
- Yale Science and Engineering Award: Phillip Bragg ‘19
- Top Ranked Research Paper (High School—First Place): Flannery Enneking-Norton ‘18
"Kate and I know how much work our students put in to get to the final stages of their projects, so to see so many of them receive awards in the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair is very gratifying,” says Seibel-Hunt, “and to have both regional spots for the ISEF competition go to SPA students is fabulous.”
See below for more details on the two winning abstracts for the ISEF competition. Congratulations to all our Science Fair participants!
CARL: A Convolutional Neural Network Powered Self-Driving Car, Michael Hall ’18 and Daniel Ellis ’18
Abstract: Autonomous vehicles have the potential to vastly increase road safety and reduce the environmental impact of personal vehicles. While this technology is still in development, rapid progress has been made in areas such as processing speed and machine learning integration. The goal of this project was to create an autonomous vehicle that incorporates cutting edge machine learning techniques on a smaller scale, while still being accessible. To meet this goal, we developed CARL, the Convolutional Autonomous dRiving vehicLe. CARL was built using a 3D printed chassis and accessible electronics, including a Raspberry Pi Model 3 and an Arduino Uno. A custom lightweight convolutional neural network, called CARLnet, was developed for the purpose of guiding the car around an arbitrarily shaped paper track. CARLnet was trained on approximately 8000 images and achieved over 95 percent accuracy in training. In testing, the car was able to drive around a track autonomously without human intervention. All data was processed using the car’s onboard computer.
Confirming the facilitative relationship between Lumbricidae and Rhamnus cathartica, Flannery Enneking-Norton ‘18
Abstract: Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn) and organisms in the family Lumbricidae (earthworms) are two invasive species to Minnesota that negatively affect native plant growth. Previous studies have shown a relationship between the two, including that the removal of buckthorn led to diminished earthworm population size in a controlled experiment in hardwood tree stands. This experiment sought to expand the results of the previous research to establish a pattern in the relationship between buckthorn and earthworms across multiple ecological sites through a field study, as well as explore how buckthorn removal affects the level of worm invasion. There was no significant difference in the overall abundance of earthworms between sites of buckthorn removal; however, there was a significant reduction in the abundance of Lumbricus terrestris (nightcrawlers) in areas of buckthorn removal, which suggests that buckthorn removal may be one avenue for regulating earthworm populations, specifically of L. terrestris, which are indicative of the highest level of invasion.