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Editor's note: this article was originally posted on Brookhaven National Laboratory's website.

UPTON, NY — Seven students took top honors and 15 others received honorable mentions in the first-ever virtual version of the annual elementary school science fair sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Girls and boys in kindergarten to grade 6 entered 129 science and engineering projects for the competition. They represented 38 elementary schools across Suffolk County, New York.

The seven students to receive top honors—as well as medals and ribbons—are:

  • Kindergartener Jude Roseto of Cutchogue East Elementary School, Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District, "Friction with Bubbles" (photo)
  • First grader Emerson Spooner of Raynor Country Day School, "Save the Earth: One Plastic Straw at a Time" (photo)
  • Second grader Sara Jain of Tamarac Elementary School, Sachem Central School District, "Shrink It Up" (photo)
  • Third grader Mia Trani of Fort Salonga Elementary School, Kings Park Central School District, "Housing the Homeless" (photo)
  • Fourth grader Rebecca Bartha of Raynor Country Day School, "Dynamic Duckweed: A Solution to Pollution in Local Water (photo)"
  • Fifth grader Reilly Riviello of Cherry Avenue Elementary School, Sayville Public Schools, "What Material is the best to protect your property from Flash Flooding" (photo)
  • Sixth grader Emma Tjersland of Hauppauge Middle School, Hauppauge School District, "Drug Facts: Impacts of Medicine Exposure on Daphnia Magna Heart Rate" (photo)

The 15 students who received honorable mention are named below. All students will be given an electronic certificate for participating.

"Suffolk County, New York State, the country, and the world need scientists and engineers now and in the future. The students in this science fair are young, but they aren't too young to have fun with investigative science and engineering processes," said Scott Bronson, Brookhaven Lab's manager for K–12 programs. "Once again, the students who participated were exceptional. Their projects showed it. Congratulations to each of them. And, 'Thank you,' to every parent, teacher, mentor, and volunteer who helped them—and will continue to help them along the way."

Brian Nava's son, Fin, was among the students in the Lab's science fair this year. For his project, the third grader at Babylon Memorial Grade School analyzed water from different sources in Babylon, testing for nitrates, pH, hardness, and clarity.

"My son was incredibly excited when he won his school's science fair. He came home, shouting about going on to Brookhaven's science fair, as if he just won American Idol," the elder Nava said.

An In-person Tradition Done Virtually in 2020

"Thinking like scientists and engineers is so important for students—asking questions, testing assumptions, drawing conclusions, and thinking about future research," said Amanda Horn, a Brookhaven Lab educator who coordinated both the virtual science fair and a new Science Share program. "The Lab has hosted science fairs for years to encourage students and we didn't want COVID-19 to stop us in 2020."

My son was incredibly excited when he won his school's science fair. He came home, shouting about going on to Brookhaven's science fair, as if he just won American Idol.

Brian Nava
Parent, Babylon, New York

Science fairs at Brookhaven Lab were typically held in person at the Lab site and students, their families, teachers, and school administrators were invited to attend. With schools closed and Brookhaven Lab's site mostly inaccessible to limit the spread of COVID-19, Bronson, Horn, and their colleagues in Brookhaven's Office of Educational Programs (OEP) quickly adjusted plans to hold the 2020 science competition virtually.

As in years past, students first qualified for the Lab's fair by winning their schools' "local" science fairs, some of which were also held virtually. Projects completed by individual students and groups were accepted—one project per grade per school.

Instead of bringing projects to Brookhaven Lab for an all-day on-site event, parents and teachers submitted photos of students' projects. OEP staff then distributed the photographs and a rubric among 23 judges, comprising Brookhaven Lab scientists, engineers, and technical staff as well as teachers from local elementary schools. To maintain objectivity and limit potential biases, information such as students' names, schools, and districts was not shared.

A student participant in the Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Fair in 2020

New 'Science Share' Program for Students Whose Science Fair Hopes Were Halted

This year, OEP staff also created the new “Science Share” program for students who couldn't advance to the Lab's science fair, because their schools could not host local science competitions while closed for the pandemic. Science Share provided those students the ability to show off their projects and problem-solving skills online. More than 45 student projects were submitted for Science Share. See them here.

Continuing to Connect Students with Science During a Pandemic

In addition to hosting the science fair and new Science Share program virtually, Brookhaven's OEP staff created several opportunities for students to continue learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related topics in recent months.

They launched the "Science at Home" website with STEM challenges, lessons, and videos. They worked closely with DOE leadership and Brookhaven's network of mentors to find ways for interns to participate in summer projects remotely. They also hosted the annual bridge-building contest virtually as well.

The 15 Students Who Received Honorable Mentions

Kindergarten

  • Taran Sathish Kumar of Bretton Woods Elementary School, Hauppauge School District, "Strength of Spagetti"
  • Evelyn Van Winckel of Fort Salonga Elementary School, Kings Park Central School District, "Are Your Hands Clean?"

First Grade

  • Mason Rothstein of Lincoln Avenue Elementary School, Sayville Public Schools, "3,2,1…Let It Rip"
  • John Henry of Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School, Rocky Point Union Free School District, "Lego Rubber Band Cars"

Second Grade

  • Agnes Van Winckel of Fort Salonga Elementary School, Kings Park Central School District, "The Flight of a Football"
  • Cassie Danseraeu and Katelynn Hausmann of West Middle Island Elementary School, Longwood Central School District, "Can Aloe Vera Juice Save Strawberries from Mold?"

Third Grade

  • Mihir Sathish Kumar of Bretton Woods Elementary School, Happauge School District, "Strength of Electromagnets"
  • Matthew Mercorella of Sunrise Drive Elementary School, Sayville Public Schools, "Think Twice Before Melting the Ice"

Fourth Grade

  • Samuel Canino of R.J.O. Intermediate School, Kings Park Central School District, "Riddled With Puck Shot"
  • Jack Gomez of R.J.O. Intermediate School, Kings Park Central School District, "Infinipower"
  • Madelyn Kalinowski of Laurel Hill School, "Wash Away Germs"

Fifth Grade

  • Alexandra Barry of Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School, Remsenburg-Speonk Union Free School District, "Mutiny on the Bounty"
  • Gavin Pickford of R.J.O. Intermediate School, Kings Park Central School District, "Is This The Last Straw"

Sixth Grade

  • Karly Coonan of Raynor Country Day School, "The Last Straw"
  • Pranav Vijayababu, Hauppauge Middle School, Hauppauge School District, "Save Our Seas"

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://www.energy.gov/science/.

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