ASMSA students garner recognition at International Science and Engineering Fair

2 months ago

Five Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts students earned recognition at the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Two students were recognized as Grand Award winners at the competition held by the Society for Science and the Public in partnership with the Intel Foundation in Los Angeles from May 15-19. Grand Awards recognize the top competitors in individual categories. The awards were announced May 19.

Martin Boerwinkle of El Dorado earned a Third Award and $1,000 prize in the Systems Software category. His project, “Variable Density Cubic Infill for Fused Filament Fabrication,” focused on writing software that provided a more efficient way for 3D printers to use filament to produce items, particularly if they have curves.

Krishna Patel of Little Rock earned a Fourth Award and $500 prize in the Earth and Environmental Sciences category. Her project was titled “Groundwater Quality of the Aquifers Underlying the Mississippi Embayment and the Gulf Coastal Plain.”

Four students earned Special Awards at the competition. Special Awards are sponsored by various organizations in a wide variety of disciplines. Awards may include cash prizes, scholarships, internships and scientific explorations. The awards were announced May 18.

Liam Johnson of Pearcy was one of eight students awarded $3,000 in United Technologies Corp. common stock for projects showing excellence in science and engineering. Johnson’s project focused on designing a scalable 3D printer with a novel elevation system.

Boerwinkle won a Fourth Award and $200 prize for his project from the Association for Computing Machinery, the premier membership organization for computing professionals.

Carson Cato of Bryant received an honorable mention in mathematics from the National Security Agency Research Directorate.

Joe Sartini of Benton received an honorable mention award from the Acoustical Society of America for his project, “Real-Time Sound Localization Using a Microphone Array.” The Acoustical Society of America is the premier international scientific society in acoustics.

The five students who earned awards were among a group of eight students ASMSA sent to ISEF this year. Boerwinkle, Patel and Cato earned a trip to the competition at the West Central Regional Science Fair held in February at ASMSA. Johnson, Sartini, Rebecca Parham of Alma, Tristan Tompkins of Springdale and Taylor Mosely of Conway earned trips to the competition by winning five of the top six prizes in the Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair held in April. The eight qualifiers tied a school record for the most ISEF competitors in one year.

Dr. Brian Monson, director of the West Central Regional Science Fair and chair of ASMSA’s Science Department, said having five students receive some type of award at ISEF was a major achievement.

“Typically only 25 percent of ISEF finalists receive an award,” Monson said. “ASMSA students did much better than this average indicating the strength of our student research program. Both of the ASMSA students who earned Grand Awards were mentored by ASMSA faculty members and did the bulk of their research at ASMSA.”

The students each said they were surprised to learn they had won an award. Having the opportunity to see the quality of projects on display from around the world was impressive and informative.

“Making new friends and meeting entrants from other countries was my favorite part,” Boerwinkle said. “Seeing international students’ projects was really interesting because it shows the different subtleties of the spirit of science in different places.

“When I heard my name announced, I was super surprised. I was honestly doubting that I’d win anything at the international fair. It was really fun to go up on stage because for a few seconds they followed you with cameras and put your face on the jumbotron at the ceremony.”

Sartini said he had “seen so many high-caliber projects that I believed myself to not be of the same level. The best part of the experience had to be seeing the innovations that the other finalists had developed.”

He said the judging at the international fair was more intense than at the regional and state levels. He said several judges of his project have careers based upon the principles he used in his project.

“They knew better than anyone how to spot statistical and mathematical errors within my project,” Sartini said. “The feedback I got on the project was generally positive, but they did point out some issues with the transforms I used and the timing with which I used them. I also found out that my project was only a few steps away from doing basically the same calculations used in modern radar systems.”

Patel said she enjoyed the judging process because it gave her an opportunity to really speak about her project with others who were interested in similar topics.

“Getting the right questions asked is the best part because you can truly let the judges know how much you’re into your project and really connect with them,” she said. “I learned how much other people were interested in my project, too. I knew the applications of my project could be spread to other regions of the world too, but once again their excitement made it more fun.

“The judges and I got to talk about the future applications of what I would discuss with them. A lot of California judges would share how successful pumping water back into the ground has been there when I would mention that as one of my methods of helping solve the water quality in the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer.”

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