Six Rockdale students took home Best in Category at the 68th Georgia Science and Engineering Fair held at the Classic Center in Athens, GA, on April 1-2, 2016. Forty student research projects from Rockdale competed with the best across the state. Caroline Snell, a teacher at Memorial Middle School, was also recognized with the Inspiring Excellence Teacher Award.
Bella Castronova, a twelfth grader at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, won Best in Category for Senior Division Animal Sciences. Cole Nangle and Shivam Vohra, both students at Memorial Middle School, won Best in Category for Junior Division Environmental Engineering. Brandon Gignilliat, Tiara Mitchell, and Cara Zheng, also from Memorial Middle School, won Best in Category for Junior Division Biochemistry.
“We are proud of how well all of our students defended their research at the state fair and delighted that Mrs. Snell’s efforts to facilitate research were recognized. Six students from the Rockdale regional fair winning best in category awards highlights the amazing innovations young scientists are making throughout Rockdale County Public Schools,” said Amanda Baskett, co-director of the Rockdale Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
A total of 32 Rockdale middle and high school students won honor awards with seven receiving first honors. Honors ribbons indicate a student’s relative position in the overall fair. They do not take into consideration either project category or student’s grade, although Senior and Junior division are calculated separately. First Honors go to projects with total scores ranking at or above the 90th percentile based on overall scores, regardless of category.
“The questions I was asked were basically just to clarify what was on the poster. I felt it was a pretty good experience overall,” said Ralph Dizon an eleventh grader at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology who investigated how bacteria can impact barley growth and won fourth honors at state.
“The judges were really good and they gave great feedback,” said Sierra Driver, an eleventh grader who worked on a genetics research partner with her teammate Miranda Murphy.
Rockdale students also won 17 specialty awards at the fair ranging from the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers’ Best Use of Engineering Skills Award, won by Matthew York from Rockdale Magnet School, to the UGA Crop and Soil Sciences Department of Agronomics Award, won by Josephine Slotnik from Memorial Middle School. Specialty Awards are given by the GSEF Judging Team and representatives of sponsoring organizations
“GSEF gives students the chance to defend their research to professional scientists and engineers. Students must know the science behind their project because the judges truly are experts in their fields,” Baskett said.
Three student projects from the magnet school will be advancing to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) after winning bids from the Rockdale Regional Science and Engineering Fair in January. Additionally, three student projects from Memorial Middle School qualified to submit for the National Broadcom Masters Award.
“The judges were really enthusiastic about our research and it helped us to be more confident in presenting our results,” said McKenna Commiskey, an eleventh grader at Rockdale Magnet.
Commiskey and her partner Kya Wideman will be presenting at ISEF and have been working with Jackson laboratory in Maine to use a mouse model to study type two diabetes. Mai Nguyen, whose project focused on engineering an oleocanthal‐based nanocarrier for drug delivery,
and Isabella Castranova , whose project characterized of thymic signaling cascades in transgenic mice, will also be competing at ISEF this May in Phoenix, Arizona.
The complete List of Specialty Awards Won from GSEF Sorted by County is available at http://www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/sites/default/files/gsef-2016-special-and-grand-awards-by-county.pdf and includes project titles. Specialty Award winners from Rockdale are noted below.
High School Specialty Awards:
The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics: 1st Place Matthew York and 3rd Place CJ Hardnett
Georgia Society of Professional Engineers’ Best Use of Engineering Skills Award: Matthew York
Georgia Veterinary Medical Association Award: Nkima Stephenson
RICOH Sustainable Development Award: Sarah Beharry
Society for In Vitro Biology: Claire Bumgardner
UGA Graduate Student Association Award for Best Genetics Project: Bella Castronova
Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award: CJ Hardnett
Best in Category: Bella Castronova
Middle School Specialty Awards:
Broadcom Masters Nominees: Imani Gunnison, Laiana Humphries, Nicole Ofori , Brandon Gignilliat, Tiara Mitchell, Cara Zheng, and Julie Gutsulyak, Alyssa Bennett and Marsha Russell. All from Memorial Middle School
American Psychological Association Education Directorate: Imani Laiana and Nicole Ofori
Inspiring Excellence Teacher Award: Caroline Snell from Memorial Middle School
Kaleidoscope Careers Academy Rising Researcher Award: Ava Bailey
National Association of Biology Teachers Award for the Junior Division: Brandon Gignilliat, Tiara Mitchell, Cara Zheng,
Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award Junior Division: Grant Tomlinson from Conyers Middle School
UGA Crop and Soil Sciences Department of Agronomics Award: Josephine Slotnik
Lamar Dodd School of Art Excellence in Creative Problem Solving and Innovative Thinking Award: Imani Gunnison, Laiana Humphries, Nicole Ofori
Best in Category – Biochemistry Junior Division: Brandon Gignilliat, Tiara Mitchell, Cara Zheng,
Best in Category – Environmental Engineering: Cole Nangle and Shivam Vohra