Student scientists compete at regional fair

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

They call it the Olympics of Science Fairs. Hundreds of the area's best student scientists, who have advanced from their local fairs, competed at the regional level Wednesday.

The Delaware Valley Science Fairs was held Wednesday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania.

One thousand students are competing for some major scholarship money and a trip to the International Science Fair in May.

The entries come from students in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

The fair focused on President Obama's call for America to win the race to educate our kids, and is promoting STEM education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The project explored the development of stem cells.

"We found that we had a great combination of stem cells and growth solution that we could develop even more in the future," says James Ting, a senior at High Technology High School.

Another student researched whether enzymes extracted from mushrooms can act as a replacement in the breakdown of glucose into ethanol.

"I tested four different mushrooms, and I found that shitake mushrooms, the enzymes extracted from there can act as a replacement with celabides," explained senior Amanda Watts from Villa Joseph Maria High School.

"We looked at the depth of the research, potentially the application, but also those who are actually pushing the envelope," explained Mo Gillen, one of the judges.

Nearly $1million in scholarship and prize money will be awarded.

A student team from Chester High studied water quality, and a home-schooled student researched systems that help forecast the weather.

"I looked at these models to see which was more accurate," said Reginald Johnson.

And there was an extensive focus on cancer, the growth of breast cancer cells.

"I discovered that non-organic Lucern Butter Brands actually increased cell growth by 82.9%," explained Ritu Saxena, a senior at Methacton High School.

Other students studied improvements for current cancer drugs.

"We're just trying to find the right combination that would result in the most cell damage to cancer cells," explains Brett Ricci, a senior from Germantown Academy.

And an Audubon teen already has a patent for a urine test to detect cancer.

We basically detected a known cancer marker in urine, and we developed assays to detect it, with a sensitivity of 75% and a specificity of 90%," explained Ben Song, a senior at Methacton High School.

Only fifteen winners from Wednesday's Fairs will win a trip to the Intel, International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May.

They will compete against high school freshman through seniors from 48 states and 65 countries, for scholarships and prizes, valued in the millions of dollars!

The winners will be announced on Thursday.

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