SPA students take top awards at Twin Cities Regional Science Fair, move on to international and state competition
Posted 03/04/2019 01:02PM

The fifteen SPA students who competed at the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair (TCRSF) over the weekend of March 1-2 earned multiple awards and honors, including the competition’s top prize: qualification for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

The fifteen students who competed at TCRSF are all participating in SPA’s Advanced Science Research program, taught by Science Department Chair Karissa Baker; twelve of the fifteen are taking the ASR course and three are engaged in independent studies. Baker, who teaches the course and advises the independent study projects, describes the ASR program as “the capstone experience” for science students at SPA.

Melissa Nie and Ethan Dincer took both regional spots for the ISEF competition, which is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition; this is the second year in a row that SPA has won both regional spots for ISEF. In a SPA regional sweep, both ISEF alternate spots were also earned by SPA students: Maggie Hlavka was named first ISEF alternate and Gabriel Konar-Steenberg was named second ISEF alternate. “This is a huge accomplishment and honor for our students,” says Karissa Baker, who chairs SPA’s Science Department and accompanied the students during the regional competition. Baker notes that ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition, and includes 1700 competitors from around the world that have moved on from their regional science fairs. "Melissa and Ethan will spend a week in Phoenix meeting student researchers from around the country and around the world, sharing their research, attending symposia by Nobel laureates, entrepreneurs, and top university researchers. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Baker says.

In addition to the ISEF sweep, the SPA contingent had exceptional results in the regional competition:

All fifteen students that entered a research project in the regional competition are moving on to the Minnesota State Science Fair at the end of March:

  • Sameer Bijwadia,The Impact of Rising Sea Levels on the Florida Everglades
  • Maddy Breton,The Effects of Painkillers on the Embryonic Development of Zebrafish
  • Richard Chang, The Reliability and Safety of Hobby-Grade Quadcopter
  • Anthony Chen, The Effects of EMFs on Seedling Germination and Photosynthesis
  • Ethan Dincer, Determination of Mutant JUP Localization in an iPSC Model of ARVC Implications for Diagnosis and Pathogenesis
  • Maggie Hlavka, Early Growth of Tallgrass Under Variable Precipitation and Species Evenness Scenarios
  • Brennan Keogh, A Novel Approach to Utilizing an Invasive Species: Eurasian Water Milfoil as a Substitute for Conventional Chemical Fertilizer
  • Gabriel Konar Steenberg, Analyzing Predicted Temperature and Diurnal Temperature Range Trends Using Regional Climate Model Output
  • Abdelrahman Mokbel, Optimizing the Vibrational Energy Harvesting Efficiency of the Duffing Oscillator
  • Melissa Nie, Applying Thermopile Array Sensors and Machine Learning to Detect Falls of Older Adults
  • Sammy Ries, Associations Between Garlic Mustand (Alliaria petiolata) and Above-Ground Soil Fungi in a Minnesota Oak Woodland
  • Betsy Romans, The Effect of Silver Nanoparticles on Aquatic Vegetation
  • Nathan Sobotka, The Effects of Various Plastic Pollutants on the Growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants
  • Nitya Thakkar, Sulforaphane Improves Oxidative Stress in Response in Caenorhabditis elegans via SKN-1
  • Kelby Wittenberg, Differentiation of mES C7 A2-GFP cells into keratinocytes for skin regeneration

Eleven of the fourteen students who entered papers in the regional competition are moving on to the state level of the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium on March 23: Sameer Bijwadia, Richard Chang, Ethan Dincer, Maggie Hlavka, Brennan Keogh,
Gabriel Konar-Steenberg, Melissa Nie, Sammy Ries, Betsy Romans, Nathan Sobotka, and Nitya Thakkar.

SPA students were the recipients of fourteen separate awards within the regional competition:

  • Graduate Women in Science Project Award: Betsy Romans and Maddy Breton
  • Graduate Women in Science Paper Award: Nitya Thakkar
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Award: Gabriel Konar-Steenberg and Sammy Ries
  • Minnesota Chapter of American Fisheries Award: Betsy Romans
  • US Air Force Award: Richard Chang
  • Naval Science Award: Abdelrahman Mokbel
  • American Meteorological Society Award: Betsy Romans and Gabriel Konar-Steenberg
  • Mu Alpha Theta Award: Gabriel Konar-Steenberg
  • NASA Earth System Science Award: Betsy Romans
  • NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award: Gabriel Konar-Steenberg
  • Society for In Vitro Biology Award: Maddy Breton
  • US Metric Association Award: Abdelrahman Mokbel
  • Yale Science and Engineering Award: Richard Chang
  • Stockholm Junior Water Prize: Betsy Romans, Maddy Breton, and Sameer Bijwadia
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