Fair participants advance to States

Four competitors won first place in their respective categories at the regional science fair last weekend.

First place winners Annie Bryan and Emily Casey, sophomores, said they had started their project to address the deficit of pure water in Africa. The team searched for a way to transport desalinated water to African villages far from the coast lines. Bryan and Casey built an apparatus to distill water containing the same salt density as the Atlantic Ocean. Bryan said they “purified the water by 97.7 percent.”

According to science teacher Matthew Kirk, “more projects won awards at all levels” than in previous years.

Junior Maggie Schumann also won first place for her research on the insulation properties of cob, a mud and straw mixture that Schumann saw in Rwandan architecture. Juniors Devon Maloney and Talley Murphy, who won second place last weekend, wanted to reinvigorate the failing agricultural industry.

By working with over a thousand worms, they investigated whether the digestion of worms enriched the nutrient content found in vermicompost, matter decomposed by worms.

Junior Gelare Ghajar-Rahimi’s experiment started at the National Institutes of Health where she studied how DNA molecules break down.

Ghajar-Rahimi described the process of first extracting the DNA from the influenza virus as “painstaking.”

“Having [DNA] lost to [faulty equipment] is a really unfortunate thing,” Ghajar-Rahimi said.

Ghajar-Rahimi then shifted the focus of her project from last year that dealt with denaturation of DNA to the plastic tubes that held them.

Sophomores Nicholas Cessna and CJ Gardner, who also did not place, created computer programs.

“We decided to program algorithms to run in a maze and find the fastest one,” Cessna said.

The group programmed five algorithms and each took three hours to program.

Junior Katya Gilbo explored a particularly challenging facet of astrophysics: pulsars.

“Pulsars are incredibly dense [stars] because they are the collapsed cores of supernovas,” Gilbo said.

Gilbo, along with the other Marshall Spaceman, is part of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, an organization partnered with West Virginia University to search for pulsars with its Green Bank telescope.

However, despite winning first place, Gilbo’s project was purely research-based and did not qualify her for the regional competition.

Sophomore Celia Islam also won first place at the regional science fair and will proceed to the state science fair.

Additionally, sophomore Aaron Aguhob received over $500 in cash prizes.

The state science fair will be held during Spring break in Norfolk, Va.