From calculating how stars orbit to finding a better way to kill mosquitos, two Austin ISD students recently demonstrated their scientific acumen on the national level.
The students placed in their respective categories at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering finals on May 21. The competition is the world's largest pre-collegiate science research STEM competition.
Aseel Rawashdeh from Anderson High School won second place in the earth and environmental sciences category. Sam Christian from the Liberal Arts and Science Academy placed third in physics and astronomy.
Rawashdeh’s project was titled "Larvicidal Trojan-horse.” She created a potential low-cost, eco-friendly mosquito control method. Essential oils, which are toxic to mosquito larvae, are injected into brewer's yeast cells then freeze-dried, making a fine lightweight powder. This powder can be added to the water where mosquito larvae exist. The larvae will then feed on the yeast and ingest the toxic essential oils.
Christian’s project investigated how planets around binary stars (two stars orbiting each other) orbit and how the planets' orbits possibly align with the stars. As part of his project, Christian used Gaia and TESS space telescope databases as well as supercomputers at Texas Advanced Computing Center.
"This was a very special moment for me," Christian said. "I've been preparing my project for nearly a year at this point and have put in so much work that it was a really rewarding experience to be recognized for that work. I'm also incredibly grateful for the support I've received from numerous mentors as I worked on my project.
Christian, who will attend MIT in the fall, said his family supported him throughout the project.
"My family is really proud of me for this accomplishment,” he said. “They've seen all the hard work I've put into my project and know how much this matters to me.”
To participate in the competition, students must submit an original research project on an important scientific field, which is then judged by leading experts. The goal is to inspire and engage the nation’s young scientists who are creating ideas that could solve society’s challenges.
"We are so impressed with our students' creativity and hard work during this very difficult year when no one had access to labs, whether at school or other institutions," said Ingrid Weigand, executive director of the Austin Science Education Foundation. "Yet they persevered and produced scientific research that goes well beyond a regular high school curriculum.”
Weigand said that this year's competition was the largest ever and was extremely competitive.
"We want to give a big thank you to the dedicated teachers and parents that supported these students as well as to acknowledge the students for their hard work,” Weigand said. “We are so proud of them."
For more information on the finalists please visit www.societyforscience.org for more information and the finalists.