Students Participate in State Science Fair

McGwire Ishikawa, Reporter

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     From April 8 to 10 at the Hawai’i Convention Center, students from MHS participated in the Hawai’i State Science and Engineering Fair. Students who qualify via school and regional science competitions come to participate, coming from all over the islands.

“Science fair is an independent scientific investigation. We want students to pursue their passion wherever they’re interested in and for example, come up with a hypothesis, develop procedures, do the experiment. As they do the experiment, they not only learn the scientific process, they learn how to be perseverant, how to collect data, how to analyze the data, how to do the stat analysis and most important of all, how they present their project,” said science teacher and science fair co-coordinator Namthip Sitachitta.

Junior Brea Swartwood participated in the state science fair for her first time this year, with her project winning second place in the category, “Plant Sciences.” She researched an invasive plant called ong choy (Ipomoea aquatica) and its effects in the native ecosystem. “It started growing along the stream there called the Kapakahi Stream, and it actually helped the growth of the native plants and started to help restore the environment, so I researched how the plant itself affected pH levels and dissolved oxygen concentration within the stream, and then how that would affect the environment of the plants around it,” said Swartwood.

Senior Min-Hua “Cindy” Tsou was also a participant in the science fair as a returnee. Her project on algal bioremediation won third place in the category, “Environmental Engineering,” and the second place Grand Award. “Current problems in energy production and global water accessibility, like the depletion of nonrenewable energy sources and the degradation of clean water, motivated me to find solutions to these pressing issues. I was determined to find ways to make bioremediation more efficient and more effective. I learned that inorganic substances and heavy metals in the environment pose a chronic threat to the safety of humans and wildlife. In addition, current wastewater treatment processes are costly, complex, and cause secondary pollution in the environment,” said Tsou.

With more and more students pursuing an interest in science, the overall quantity and quality of science projects has grown and improved. Because there is more variety in the topics and experiment, each competition is always different.“You see kids that go through the scientific process and you just watch them grow. They grow as a person, learn how to be perseverant. They learn how to solve problems from different angles. When they get stuck, they don’t stop there. They try to pursue different ways to solve the problem, and they learn how to convey their presentations,” said Sitachitta.

The science fair competitions have inspired students into pursuing a future in science. It has also helped them connect with others who share similar interests as them. “Science fair is special to me because it helped me find a love for research and an lasting passion for science and engineering. Through science fair, I realized that I wanted to pursue a major in biomedical engineering; I wanted to work in a laboratory to help innovate solutions to important issues,” said Tsou. Swartwood added, “I personally think that the state science fair was important to me because I got exposed to what other high school kids are also doing, like labs or researching. Sometimes, I feel alone because I’m a kid doing research and everyone else is out, having fun with their friends and I’m sitting here doing research. When I come to a convention, and I see all of these other kids that have also been doing hours and hours of research after school, working with mentors, I feel less alone. It’s a nice feeling, and people are researching really cool topics.”

Swartwood and Tsou hope to continue and expand on their projects in the future. They are going to participate in the International Science and Engineering Fair from May 12 to 17.