Maine Students Present Research and Engineering Projects at 75th Annual Maine State Science Fair

Celebrating its 75th year, the Maine State Science Fair (MSSF), organized by The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA), took place virtually on April 3, 2021. 157 students representing 23 schools in 8 Maine counties tuned in to present virtual research or engineering projects to a panel of judges and attend events. High school students from across the state competed for prestigious state titles and over $1 million in scholarships and awards.The winners were announced during a virtual award ceremony on April 3 at 3 pm ET. The event was headlined by keynote speaker Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.In his remarks, Dr. Shah encouraged the students to communicate their science clearly to non-scientific audiences. “Just as important as learning the tools of science are learning the tools of science communication,” Shah said. “The principal that I always keep in my mind [when answering a scientific question] is you shouldn’t tell them how to build a clock, you should tell them what time it is, because that’s what they are really interested in.”

“This year’s Maine State Science Fair was an inspiring showcase of the STEM talent being fostered in Maine high schools,” said Michael McKernan, Program Director for STEM and Undergraduate Education at The Jackson Laboratory and a co-Director of the Maine State Science Fair. “Students presented projects that were both highly creative and also relevant to pervasive issues in Maine.”

Linh Nguyen, a senior at Deering High School in Portland, studied how carbon nanotubes could be used as an inexpensive remover of arsenic in drinking water systems, including private wells where arsenic contamination is prevalent. Vetri Vel, a senior at Bangor High School, improved his fall-detection software which uses a thermal-imaging detector of his own creation. Vel’s system could be deployed in the homes of elderly people, living alone, to reliably and automatically detect falls and send a call for help. Ashton Caron, a senior at Nokomis High School in Newport, used GPS collars and chemical studies of pasture grass nutrition to study grazing patterns in cows. This could help Maine farmers better plan pasture rotations to sustain both the cows and their pasture resources.

The Grand Award winners were:

1.     First Award – Linh Nguyen, 12th grade, Deering High School. Applications of Carbon Nanotube Based Sorbents for Removal of Arsenic from Polluted Water.

2.     Second Award – Vetri Vel, 12th grade, Bangor High School. Readily Implementable Fall Detection System for the Elderly Using Thermal Image Segmentation and Convolutional Neural Networks.

3.     Third Award – Mateus Nascimento, 11th grade, Brunswick High School. How Animals Talk: Understanding Silk Moth Communication through Detection of Pheromones with an Electronic Nose.

“It has been awe-inspiring to see the achievements of Maine’s students as the Science Fair has grown to involve more schools and educators from across the state,” said Dr. Ruth Kermish-Allen, Executive Director of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA). “Our young people are creating outstanding scientific research that truly can make a difference in the world, and we are able to recognize those efforts through increased scholarships to diverse higher education options available to MSSF students. The creativity and innovation we see in these complex scientific studies highlights the amazing talents of Maine’s next generation of leaders.”

In addition to the Grand Award prizes, more than $1 million in scholarships, including several full-tuition scholarships, from The University of Maine, College of the Atlantic, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, St. Joseph’s College of Maine, the University of Maine at Augusta, and Husson University were distributed to students who demonstrated creativity, innovation, aptitude and notable scientific potential.

For the first time, several Maine community colleges also offered and awarded scholarships. York County Community College, Central Maine Community College, and Southern Maine Community College each made one partial tuition scholarship. Additional students received awards for various achievements from JAX and MMSA.

The following students received full-tuition four-year Top Scholar awards from The University of Maine, including admission to the UMaine Honors College:

Emerson Harris, Boothbay Region High School

Zoe Stankevitz, Nokomis Regional High School

Ashton Caron, Nokomis Regional High School

Nora Goldberg-Courtney, Maine Coast Waldorf School

Nick Pease, Nokomis Regional High School

Matthew Gilbert, Greely High School

Ogechi Obi, Bangor High School

Grace Hall, Belfast Area High School

Ashly Nyman, Nokomis Regional High School

Carter Rice, Nokomis Regional High School

Quinn D’Alessio, Bangor High School

Maya Elkadi, Bangor High School

The following students received a $20,000 four-year scholarship from the College of the Atlantic, renewable for four years.

Nora Goldberg-Courtney, Maine Coast Waldorf School

Emerson Harris, Boothbay Region High School

The following students received a $5,000 four-year scholarship from the University of New England, renewable for four years:

Grace Hall, Belfast Area High School

Siobhan Duffy, Washington Academy

Emerson Harris, Boothbay Region High School

Maya Elkadi, Bangor High School

The following students received full-tuition four-year scholarships from the University of Southern Maine:

Quinn D’Alessio, Bangor High School

Emerson Harris, Boothbay Region High School

The following students received top merit scholarships from the University of Southern Maine, including a $5,000 award.

Tomas Cundick, Foster Technical Center

Grace Hall, Belfast Area High School

Nora Goldberg-Courtney, Maine Coast Waldorf School

Roland Ladd, Bangor High School

Virginia Weiss, Cape Elizabeth High School

Uyen Nguyen, John Bapst Memorial High School

Simon Socolow, Bangor High School

Siobhan Duffy, Washington Academy

The following students received a $2,500 four-year scholarship from St. Joseph’s College of Maine:

Grace Hall, Belfast Area High School

Uyen Nguyen, John Bapst Memorial High School

The following students received a $1,500 four-year scholarship from the University of Maine at Augusta, renewable for four years:

Nora Goldberg-Courtney, Maine Coast Waldorf School

Roland Ladd, Bangor High School

The following students received a $1,000 scholarship from Husson University:

Grace Hall, Belfast Area High School

Jordan Boyd, Nokomis Regional High School

Cassidy Hodges, Nokomis Regional High School

Ella Donaghy, Medomak Valley High School

Other awards included:

York County Community College awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Amber-Rae Pesek, Hancock County Technical Center.

Central Maine Community College awarded a one semester full-tuition scholarship to Lillian Philbrook, Hancock County Technical Center.

Southern Maine Community College awarded a one semester full-tuition scholarship to Virginia Weiss, Cape Elizabeth High School.

Linh Nguyen, Deering High School, was awarded the $5,000 Cary James Water Ride Scholarship.

The JAX Promising Scientist Award for outstanding research and engineering projects by 1st year students, was presented to:

Mary McPheeters, Falmouth High School

Alexander Benton, Maine Coast Waldorf School

Audrey Hufnagel, Lincoln Academy

Katie Nakai, Brunswick High School

Avery Matthews, Falmouth High School

The Reach Award for students from schools who are new to the Maine State Science Fair, given by the MMSA, was presented to:

The team of Anna Molloy, James Wheeler, Orono High School

The team of Esme Song, Penelope Haydar, Caroline Gentile, Cape Elizabeth High School

The full list of special awards is posted online at https://www.jax.org/mssf

Each category of research project includes three top prizes. The MSSF Category Winners are as follows:

Animal Sciences

1st – Patrick Wahlig, Falmouth High School

2nd – Runzhe Yao, Gould Academy

3rd – Ashton Caron, Nokomis Regional High School

Behavioral Sciences – Psychology

1st – Sciatzy Solis, Medomak Valley High School

2nd – Vy Do, Washington Academy

3rd – Olivia Whitten, Nokomis Regional High School

Biological Sciences

1st – Mateus Nascimento, Brunswick High School

2nd – Simon Socolow, Bangor High School

3rd – Ariel Larrabee, Hancock County Technical Center

Biomedical and Health Sciences

1st – Emerson Harris, Boothbay Region High School

2nd – Coco Xu, Falmouth High School

3rd – McHenna Martin, Hancock County Technical Center

Chemistry

1st – Auburn Putz-Burton, Gould Academy

2nd – Jiaqi Li, Gould Academy

3rd – Grace Leschey and Virginia Weiss, Cape Elizabeth High School

Computer Sciences

1st – Nick Pease, Nokomis Regional High School

2nd – Alex Hardy, Foster Technical Center

3rd – Cuthbert Steadman and Beckett Mundell-Wood, Bangor High School

Data Science

1st – Madyson Redding, Old Town High School

2nd – Maia Pietraho, Brunswick High School

3rd – Jack Nussbaum, Brunswick High School

Engineering

1st – Vetri Vel, Bangor High School

2nd – Brady McQuaid, Brunswick High School

3rd – Jordan Boyd, Nokomis Regional High School

Environmental Engineering

1st – Linh Nguyen, Deering High School

2nd – Maya Elkadi and McKayla Kendall, Bangor High School, Bangor High School

3rd – Frederick Oldenburg and Roland Ladd, Bangor High School, Bangor High School

Environmental Science

1st – Swetha Palaniappan, Cape Elizabeth High School

2nd – Paula Dauphinais and Nancy Dauphinais, Nokomis Regional High School

3rd – Ruth White, Orono High School

Environmental Science – Water

1st – Miranda LeClair, Old Town High School

2nd – Ginny Hunt, Bangor High School

3rd – Quinn D’Alessio, Bangor High School

Materials Science

1st – Ogechi Obi, Bangor High School

2nd – Jinkyu Kim, Gould Academy

3rd – MacKenna Carter, Machias Memorial High School

Physics and Energy

1st – Mia Smith Old Town, High School

2nd – Nuthi Ganesh, Bangor High School

3rd – Will Caron, Bangor High School

Plant Science

1st – Meaghan Caron, Bangor High School

2nd – Nora Goldberg-Courtney, Maine Coast Waldorf School

3rd – Bryce Carter, Hancock County Technical Center

Maine State Science Fair is further supported by Central Maine Power, AV Technik, Society for Science, Maine Technology Institute, Texas Instruments, Maine Space Grant Consortium, IEEE, Hancock Lumber, Fiber Materials, Inc., and Wipfli CPAs and Consultants.

Information for this article was provided by The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. The Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign is an avenue for Maine schools to celebrate successes and share innovative ideas, practices, and models that can be adapted and easily implemented by other Maine schools. Stories are not an endorsement of specific materials, services, or practices and are not intended to promote learning programs that are of cost to students, families, or schools. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.