Chester County Students Participate in Virtual Science Research Competition

science researchImage by Mark Mags

DOWNINGTOWN, PA — Future doctors, engineers, mathematicians and scientists from over 40 Chester County schools recently took the virtual stage to proudly showcase their research and projects to a panel of judges for the first-ever virtual Chester County Science Research Competition.

“Since the pandemic pulled the rug out from under us last year just days before the Science Fair, my team and I were determined to have a fair in some form this year,” noted CCIU Special Events Coordinator Kathy Gurnee. With the help of Delaware Valley Science Fairs (DVSF), the CCIU Special Events team quickly decided to go all virtual and utilize the platform STEM Wizard. Gurnee added, “This still begged the question of live interviews. I felt very strongly about having students meet with judges via Zoom. Through the dedicated efforts of our school coordinators, the CCIU Information Technology department and other CCIU Communications staff, we were able to successfully host the virtual science fair. Every one of the 244 students showed up for their interviews and the fair went better than I could have imagined.”

In addition to exploring their interest in the sciences, students also competed in the hopes of winning a number of awards and recognitions. In grades 6-12, one of these recognitions included the chance to advance to the DVSF, where participants would have the opportunity to win nearly $6 million in combined college scholarships.

Despite there being over a dozen categories for students to choose from, one common theme emerged across multiple categories – the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer Science (grades 4-8), Engineering, Environmental, Math, Medicine & Health, Microbiology, Physics and Teams all had projects that dealt with the pandemic. Projects involving face masks (“Does Your Mask Really Work?” and “Masking the Fog”), hand sanitizer (“Finding the Ideal Amount of Hand Sanitizer Based on Age and Gender” and “How the Viscosity of Gel Hand Sanitizer Changes”), and other COVID-related topics (“A Vital Connection: The Association Between Vitamin D and COVID-19” and “Be a Germ Buster, Wash Hands”) attempted to answer questions that researchers across the globe have been tasked with over this past year. Our young student scientists grappled with these same questions, devised their own experiments and set their sights on discovering the answers.

Topic ideas for the competition can be sparked by anything from the desire to find a solution to a household problem to career aspirations in the field of science. And sometimes, from those sparks, a passion for the topic is ignited.

introduction slide
An introduction slide from Addison Liu’s presentation, “Simulation and Analysis on the Self-Foldability of the Origami Hyperbolic Paraboloid,” that explains self-folding.

Addison Liu, a senior at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District who has been participating in the annual in-person science fair for the past six years, noted, “It was definitely a different experience, but preserving the interview component, even over Zoom, really made it feel more familiar and just as exciting. I really enjoyed discussing with my judges!” Liu has developed a passion for robotics and plans to study Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University next fall. “Conducting independent research over my middle and high school career has solidified my aspirations to be a part of the next generation of robotics innovators, and competing in science fairs has taught me the importance of communication in science.” Liu’s project, “Simulation and Analysis on the Self-Foldability of the Origami Hyperbolic Paraboloid,” was one of two to win first place in the A Fair’s Engineering category.

Kylie Purse
Downingtown Area School District’s Kylie Purse showing off her science fair project.

This was Downingtown Area School District’s Kylie Purse’s first year competing in the fair. She displayed the effects that human actions are having on the rise in sea level and the science behind how it is actually rising. She is hoping her project communicates the need for humans to take action in preventing continued sea level rise. Jeff Purse, Kylie’s father, mentioned that he “feels the process of working through solving a problem via the scientific method spans across many disciplines and is great for overall educational enrichment for Kylie.” He also noted, “It was a pleasure to participate and Kylie will definitely be competing again next year!” Purse received an Honors award in the Environmental Science category.

The Chester County Science Research Competition, which was sponsored by CCRES, the DVFS and STEM Wizard, was a feeder fair for the virtual Delaware Valley Science Fairs. Over 60 students from the virtual Chester County Science Fair advanced to the DVSF. For a complete list of winners, please visit https://www.dvsf.org/.

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