Complex projects mark the occasion at 63rd science fair

Science fairs conjure up memories of exploding volcanoes, solar system models and plant experiments, but these days the projects are much more meaningful and complex, especially those on display at the 63rd annual Baltimore Science Fair, which was held at Towson University on March 24 and 25. Projects with titles like “Band Gap Engineering of Transition Metal Dichalcogenide van der Waals Heterostructures Under Electric Field” from Dulaney High School juniors David Chen and Alan Zhang or the offering from Dulaney seniors Alex Ozbolt and Varun Singhai of “Determining Illness Using Autonomous Calorimetric Analysis of Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” are more par for the course at the Baltimore Science Fair. These projects, along with entries from St. Joseph middle schoolers Ian Huculak, Sophie Mehdizaden and Brian Rogers, all placed in the top eight in their respective divisions and won several other independent organizational awards as well. Additionally, Ashley Bernhardt, Charlie Smith and Grace Wagner from St. Joseph School met with great success at this very competitive science fair, taking home awards from organizations like the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Davis Memorial and the Yale Science and Engineering Association. The contest is open to all middle and high school students from Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (including the Ingenuity Project) in Baltimore City.

If you were wondering, like I was, exactly what a project entitled “Determining Illness Using Autonomous Calorimetric Analysis of Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” incorporates, one of the project’s authors, Alex Ozbolt, explained: "Our project has potential to bring cheap, noninvasive, easy-to-use technology into the disease diagnostic market. I'm looking forward to potentially implementing Viral X in Third World countries, where health care and trained medical professionals are difficult to come by. Right now, our only obstacle is lack of capital: Antibodies are incredibly expensive. Thus far, Varun and I have used only resources available on hand at school. The next step for us is to reach out to companies and corporations who could potentially fund our experiment.”

Quite impressive, and Varun and Alex’s project won four awards in total, including first place in the high school division from the American Society for Quality, and third place from the U.S. Public Health Service, among others. If you’d like to learn more about their project, you can contact them at ViralX@gmail.com.

There is more to the story than I reported in my last column about the terrific Oratorical Contest at St. Joseph School. The in-school contest was actually sponsored by the Cockeysville Optimist Club, during which 19 students spoke on the topic, “Where Are My Roots of Optimism?” James Welsch Sr. debuted the contest at the school in 1964, and the Cockeysville Optimist Club has sponsored it ever since. Mr. Welsch, who passed away in 2010, was a champion of the program and to this day, his wife, Theresa, represents his legacy by attending the Oratorical Contest each year. My apologies to these fine folks who have kept the tradition going at St. Joseph School for more than 50 years!

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