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ACPS Students Win Best in Show at Regional Science Fair

DATE:                   March 19, 2013
CONTACT:           Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE:                434-972-4049

Albemarle County Public Schools Students Win Best in Show at Piedmont Regional Science Fair; County Students Earn 65 Awards Overall

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Albemarle County Public Schools students earned both Best in Show awards at the 32nd annual Piedmont Regional Science Fair held this past week at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Overall, students from the division won 11 of 15 first place awards in the senior (high school) division, a first place award in the junior (middle school) division, and 35 special awards.

Two seniors in Albemarle High School’s Math, Engineering & Science Academy (MESA) won Best in Show honors, earning expense-paid trips to the International Science & Engineering Fair at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona from May 12-17. Simanta Gautam’s project featured a novel algorithm using abstract mathematics for distributing points on higher dimensional spheres, while Sydney Giacalone’s project tested foods for genetically modified ingredients (GMO) and discussed the need for GMO labeling reform.

The Best in Show alternates also are Albemarle County students. Albemarle High School’s Andreas Ravichandran studied more effective measures for containing infection from the spread of influenza, and Western Albemarle’s Xiaoran Zhu developed a nasal spirometer to assist asthmatics.

First place winners in the senior division from Albemarle High School included:

  • Ana Daley and Lindsey Brown in Behavioral & Social Sciences;
  • Camille Leech and Megan Schnell for Biochemistry;
  • Collin Hensien and Reece Echelberger in Cellular & Molecular Biology;
  • Selena Feng in Computer Science;
  • Meredith Hooper in Earth & Planetary Science;
  • Ben Beiter for Energy & Transportation;
  • Molly Thompson and Elizabeth Rintels for Environmental Management;
  • Simanta Gautam in Mathematical Sciences;
  • Andreas Ravichandran for Medicine & Health Sciences; and
  • Sydney Giacalone in Plant Sciences.

Xiaoran Zhu of Western Albemarle High School was the first place winner in Materials & Bioengineering and received six individual awards for his work.

“This is an extraordinary group of students, whose contributions to solving real-world problems are just beginning,” said Jeff Prillaman, who directs Albemarle County’s Math, Engineering & Science Academy. “In our curriculum, we emphasize critical thinking skills, collaboration among our students, creative applications of what they are learning, and the need to effectively communicate the benefits of their research. They did very well in the midst of some very exacting competition,” Prillaman added.

In the junior division, John Barber from Sutherland Middle School won first place in Electrical & Mechanical Engineering.

Overall, Albemarle High students earned 42 awards at the regional science fair, and Western Albemarle students earned 11. Students from Sutherland Middle School won eight awards, and Henley Middle School students earned four.

All first place winners in the senior division are eligible for the state science fair, which will be held on April 5 and 6 at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. Winners at the state level are eligible for the international competition in Arizona, which annually attracts entries from more than 1,500 students from 40 different countries.

The regional fair included 11 different school divisions, two private schools, and several home schooled students. More than 300 projects were entered in both divisions, and more than 350 students participated in the fair.

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