Introducing the 2020 Indian River Regional Science and Engineering Fair State Bid Winners!

These students were selected by a special panel of judges at our Regional Fair in January to represent Indian River County at the Florida State Science Fair. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 this year’s State Fair was cancelled and students were unable to compete. However, we are sure that our State Bid Students would have done amazing at the State Fair and wanted to feature them and their research.
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computational analysis of everglades health
Jade Butler (L) and Jillian Sweetland (R)

Jade Butler and Jillian Sweetland 
Vero Beach High School
Earth and Environmental Sciences Category – Senior Division

The Everglades is an extremely valuable portion of Florida for nutrient processing, flood flow alteration, and groundwater discharge. When colonial settlers drained the Everglades for farmland and urbanization, the ecosystem was severely damaged. This research project focuses on how human populations impacted Everglades health in terms of water occurrence.

We analyze satellite images and datasets from the Google Earth Engine between the years 1985 and 2010. Then, we develop code to extract populations of South Florida counties and find the fraction of semi-permanent water and land for a given location. Based on this research, we conclude that the population increase in South Florida is uncorrelated to the water occurrence of the area. Although population is not a direct factor of water occurrence, other causes may point to this flux. For example, agriculture, water quality, and natural disasters all may explain the increase and decrease in water occurrence in the Everglades. This research provides relevant information on further restoration efforts as well as an explanation on past occurrences in one of Florida’s most treasured ecosystems.

Science fair is one of our favorite events to attend all year. We have such a strong scientific community in Indian River County, and it’s always important to share our research and learn about others’ work. One of our favorite things about science fair is that everyone gets to share their work in a respectful environment. It’s always so fun to talk with people from other schools and see what they chose to do their research on, and no matter what, everyone supports each other.

Solaris Albury Solaris Albury
Oslo Middle School
Biomedical & Health Sciences – Junior Division

For this project, I tested, which exposure time kills more bacteria exposed to UV radiation. I worked at the IRSC to perform this experiment I made five different time lengths, 5, 10, 15, 20 to leave the bacteria under the UV light.
I made over 100 plates and conducted 20 different trials, I hypothesized that if bacteria were exposed to UV radiation for various amounts of time, then the bacteria exposed for one minute would have a death rate equivalent to the longer exposures. My hypothesis was proven wrong by the data, The plates exposed for 1 minute had the most remaining bacterial cells remaining. In Conclusion, the 20-minute plates had the least amount of bacterial cells still living on the plate.

Sienna MallonSienna Mallon
Saint Edward’s Middle School
Junior Biomedical and Health Sciences Division

My Science Fair project compares the vital capacity of athletes versus non-athletes. My hypothesis states that athletes would have a greater vital capacity because exercise strengthens respiratory muscles allowing the lungs to take in more air. I used participants from my school to get data after sending out questionnaires and consent forms. I had 10 athletes, 5 males and 5 females, and 10 non-athletes, 5 males and 5 females. Each participant blew into a spirometer three times, and I recorded their results. I used their best FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) result to average together. The average FEV1 for the athletes was greater than the non-athletes which proved my hypothesis correct. The things I like most about Science Fair are seeing all the people with their amazing projects and meeting the judges.

Marlon-Dato-SlatteryMarlon Dato-Slattery
St. Edward’s Middle School
Environmental Engineering – Junior

My project examined wind turbine efficiency.  My hypothesis was that increasing wind speed should increase the power output of the turbine but may eventually decrease efficiency. I connected a generator to the wind turbine and two multimeters (one to measure voltage and one to measure intensity).  I measured the wind at four different speeds. I measured the intensity and voltage at each speed and multiplied them together to obtain power.  I calculated the theoretical power of the wind from the formula P=(½) ρ A V³.  In my experiment, the efficiency increases when the wind speed is increased from 2.975 m/s (efficiency= 0.44) to 3.325 m/s (efficiency= 0.79), but it decreases when the speed is increased to 3.85 m/s (efficiency=0.49).  The next speed of 4.4 m/s has a slightly higher efficiency of 0.53 but still lower than that obtained at 3.325 m/s wind speed. This result indicates that my wind turbine converts kinetic energy into electrical energy better or, is more efficient when the wind speed is close to 3.325 m/s.  The efficiency of the wind turbine is a measure of how well it transforms the kinetic energy of the wind into electrical energy.   This experiment demonstrates the importance of choosing the right size generator for the average wind conditions of a given area.  There is a point where the increased wind speed and wind power will not equally increase the power output.  This could happen because of losses of energy through friction and mechanical limitations. 

The thing I enjoyed most about Science Fair was actually doing the experiment. 

Lily-StraussI have done two experiments related to vehicular heat death.  My first experiment looked at the effects of elevated internal car temperatures on the rates of cellular respiration and carbon dioxide production in the Tenebrio molitor, a mealworm. I found that with increasing internal car temperatures the rate of carbon dioxide production increases as well. I think this finding would help develop a detection system for cars for the detection of retained passengers. My second experiment was a followup to see if correcting the internal car temperature (thermal comfort correction) can improve survival rates in Tenebrio molitor. My experiment demonstrated a survival benefit at higher temperatures of 35 and 40 degree Celsius but not at higher temperatures. I think these results demonstrate a “window of opportunity” to reduce vehicular heat deaths by early detection and correction of thermal comfort.

james-elfordJames Elford

Sebastian River High School
Environmental Engineering – Senior

Water is the main source of all life on earth. Almost one billion people on our planet don’t have access to clean safe drinking water, and by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. With this project I wanted to find a way to harness the suns free energy to make clean drinking water with any source of water and daily sunlight. In order to do this I needed to either desalinate or decontaminate water for the purpose of providing enough drinkable water for a family of four per day. My focus was on desalination.

In order to desalinate water I used a parabolic solar trough to concentrate sunlight on a pipe. The water inside the pipe would then boil, evaporate, create steam, and condense making fresh water. My setup includes the parabolic trough, solar tracking, and a lot of plumbing.

It took me three iterations of builds and a little over a year to accomplish a working prototype. The first try was using a Fresnel Lens projected onto a couple different types of containers, it wouldn’t work. The second was using a solar Parabolic Dish, its setup was even more cumbersome than the Fresnel Lens and couldn’t boil water rapidly either. I finally found that by using a parabolic trough I can produce fresh water efficiently and the solar tracking developed could track the sun all day long so no man power was needed to keep the plant running. My project can produce fresh water all day on a sunny day completely autonomously and with no use of fossil fuels. The solar still (which was my control) produced 1115ml of fresh water while my parabolic trough build produced 2920ml in just one day. It proved that it’s far more efficient and productive than the solar still, but I was unable to create enough drinking water for a family of four per day. Because of this temporary setback I’ve tweaked the design and the overall operation of the solar trough while keeping the solar tracking system engaged, if my new design works the way I’d like, my water production should double (if not more) from its current output.

The science fair provides many opportunities and rewards such as millions of dollars in scholarships to great colleges, cash prizes, national and international travel, and the chance to make lifelong friends. My favorite part of the competition is going to the State Science Fair. Every time I’ve competed (since 6th grade) I’ve either placed 2nd or 3rd in Engineering at the State Science Fair. You get to meet new, friendly, and cool kids who are competing just like you, and who have worked just as hard as you to get there. You get to stay in a hotel with hundreds of other kids from across the state of Florida. You go out to eat, you go to a theme park, they even throw a huge party for all the kids at the end of the week at the Science Museum in Tampa! (There’s never a dull moment)

Judging day is nerve racking and a bit exhausting depending on how many judges want to learn more about your ideas. You get to mingle a little bit and meet new people while learning about their projects. At the end of the week it’s time for the Awards Ceremony. Waiting to hear your name, listening for the names of your new friends that came with you from Regionals, and keeping fingers crossed tightly while hundreds and hundreds of kids line up for their awards. You sit there shaking in anticipation while you cheer on everyone who’s worked so hard on their project, and all you can do is patiently wait. If your name is called, at first a sense of shock comes over you, you jump out of your chair, and you feel overwhelming excitement as you line up to receive your award.

Ultimately though, It doesn’t even matter if you place, just being chosen to go to the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair is a reward in itself!

The State Science Fair is nerve racking, fun, engaging and suspenseful. But, ultimately the biggest reward is being able to meet lifelong friends who share your same passion for the scientific process.

Please check back, there are more projects to come!


Laica Gerwien-Moreta

Laica Gerwien-Moreta is a government contracting consultant with proven experience in the Information Technology, Aviation, Aerospace, and Health Industries. Laica previously held leadership roles within various defense contractors supporting domestic and international operations as well as medical management solutions and humanitarian programs.

Laica has also served as an Empowered Official overseeing all International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) related activities and responsible for the strategic alignment of resources and staffing in support of global supply chain. Laica holds a bachelor’s degree in technical management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and professional certification in government contracting from The George Washington University, School of Business.

She is a certified contract manager (GWCCM), member of the National Contract Management Association Space Coast Chapter, and regularly participates in professional development training.