A year of many firsts for OH high school science students came to an exciting close this month in Phoenix, as freshman Pram Koirala presented at a global conference of young scientists. Pram earned the trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair by being named one of seven finalists at the Buckeye Science and Engineering Fair (BSEF) this spring.
Not only was Pram the first OH student to attend the annual International Intel ISEF conference as a BSEF finalist, she and fellow OH students had many other firsts this year:
- OH students collected more than $5,000 in scholarships, prizes, and awards from local and state conferences – the highest single-year amount ever.
- All seven OH students presenting at The Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day May 11 received “superior” scores for their work– the first time every OH student attending the event scored at the highest level.
- The students’ collective achievements at a May 11 The Ohio Academy of State Science Day event helped Ottawa Hills High School receive the Harold C. Shaw Outstanding School Award for its district (only 12 schools statewide receive the honor) – a first for the school.
- Participation in the first year of the “Honors Scientific Research Class in partnership with ProMedica.” The new course has helped raise the bar for all of the school’s biology students, said Jeremy Nixon, biology teacher.
- A record seventh-straight trip to the state tournament by the high school Science Olympiad team. At the March 9 regional, OH students finished first in five events; overall, the Green Bears finished second.
“It’s been a remarkable year and one that could not have been achieved without dedication from the students themselves,” Mr. Nixon said. As the high school’s scientific research advisor, Mr. Nixon accompanies students to events such as BSEF, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (administered by the National Science Teachers Association), and The Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day.
In April, students in the Honors Scientific Research Class were the focal point of an evening event at ProMedica’s downtown SteamPlant headquarters. Organized by the Ottawa Hills Schools foundation, the event allowed students to present their class projects and for the district to thank the health care company and the University of Toledo for its gift in support of science education. Through the class, students conducted scientific work at labs with researchers, mostly from the University of Toledo. In addition to parents, teachers,ProMedica staff, attendees included many of the students’ UT “colleagues” who opened their labs and provided mentorship.
Pram also was a big winner on the scholarship front. She earned $2,100 in scholarships for her presentation at the The Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day ; the money came from Columbia Gas of Ohio and the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomenon Institute at Ohio University. The another major recipient was junior Priya Bhatt, who received a $1,500 scholarship from the the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
Here is a summary of the key conferences this year and student achievements associated with them:
- Pram was named an alternate to attend and present at the Buckeye Science & Engineering Fair due to her achievements at The Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day district events. At the Fair, she was named a BSEF finalist and invited to the Phoenix event earlier this month.
- Every OH student received a “superior” rating May 11 at The Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day at Ohio State University. Will Berschback (9), Priya Bhatt (11), Faith Seo (9), Amanda O’Loughlin (9), Ava Porter (9), Pram Koirala (9), and Elise Denk (9) qualified for the event by advancing through the local and district competitions. Additionally, Ottawa Hills High School received the District 2 State Science Fair “Outstanding School Award.”
- Ottawa Hills High School students had a strong showing March 11-13 at the 56th Ohio Junior Science and Humanities ?Symposium at Bowling Green State University. Pram, Priya, and senior Abigail Berk presented original research. Pram and Priya were two of 24 students selected to participate in the paper presentation competition. Pram was the only ninth grader that earned the opportunity to do a paper presentation for her work on solar cells. Priya won second place for her paper presentation titled “The Wound Healing Project: RHOG’s Effect on Cellular Migration” and a $1,500 scholarship to any college or university she attends. Abigail won first place and a $50 gift certificate for her poster presentation titled “Characterizing the Chromosomal Instability Regulator: MAD1.”
INSIDE THE PHOENIX INTEL CONFERENCE
As a finalist at the Buckeye Science and Engineering Fair, Pram earned a trip to present her research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix. The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition; it is attended by more than 2,000 students, teachers, scientist and parents.
One of the highlights was being selected to come up with and ask a question of experts at one of the conference’s keynote events (image, right). Before thousands of attendees, Pram posed her question to the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Martin Chalfie, a professor at Columbia University. Her question: “People often say ‘failure is the best teacher’ but many may find it hard to believe that such distinguished individuals have ever failed in life. So what failures did you encounter in your scientific career and how or what did that teach you?”
“It was such an honor being answered by a Nobel Prize Winner and an amazing experience,” she said.
On Wednesday, she and other attendees spent six hours being judged on her project: The Effects of Cadmium Telluride Thickness on the Current Voltage Output on Thin-film Solar Cells. “The whole judging process was very exhausting but an amazing experience since I was able to get some feedback by great scientists,” Pram said.
When not being judged or otherwise standing by their posters and answering questions from attendees she was able to enjoy sights around Phoenix as well as the convention itself, especially the Intel Quad, an area dedicating to gaming. “We were able to look at colleges and see what they had to offer as well,” Pram said.
“There was also a wall at the convention center and on it was written all of the finalists’ names,” she said. “I was thankfully able to find my name in a sea of about 1,800 names.” (In image at right, Pram - far right - poses with a few fellow Intel ISEF participants.)
Mr. Nixon also enjoyed the conference and the opportunity to learn about classroom innovations from some of the country’s leading scientists and educators. He’s already planning to introduce changes to his curriculum as a result. “I met students and teachers from all over the world and made some amazing connections through the many networking opportunities,” Mr. Nixon said. “Not only did I get to see thousands of amazing science fair projects, I also attended many symposia and workshops.”
One such symposium was “Research Ethics Training for Rising Researchers” and presented by Dr. Eman Ghahem, the director of membership, chapters, and programs at Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society. Her presentation reviewed a newly developed curriculum unit of six models/lessons covering ethics in scientific research, based on books by Sigma Xi. The program is in the early stages of implementation.
“I spoke to Dr. Ghahem after her presentation, and I am hoping to pilot her program in my AP Bio and Honors Scientific Research classes for her next year,” Mr. Nixon said. “I also want to work with her to create pre- and post-assessments to better assess areas of limited student knowledge and misconceptions. This is a very exciting opportunity that may lead to co-authorship opportunities on future research around research ethics lessons. Very exciting!”
Another symposium focused on conducting high-end high school research with university partners. Presenters were from Minnetonka High School in Minnesota, which has a level II research lab and 90 students enrolled in its research class. It also has a partnership with The University of Minnesota, similar to what Ottawa Hills has with the University of Toledo for its Honors Scientific Research Class.
“The competency-based instruction and assessment they use are very similar to the standards-based instruction and assessment I developed for my research class,” Mr. Nixon said. “It was a nice confirmation that I am definitely on the right track with the assessment, instruction, and structure of my research class. I also learned a great deal from them about dealing with weekly goals, assessments, and accountability that I will implement in the Research Class next year.”
One of Mr. Nixon’s highlights was meeting fellow high school teacher Paul Strode (pictured together at right).
“Paul is a legend in the teaching world. His session was amazing,” Mr. Nixon said. “Paul teaches biology, AP biology, and scientific research, and I have followed him and his work for years in research, teaching, and on social media. I was able to talk to him after his session, and made a great friend and connection. I even got a picture with him and he followed me back on Twitter. So cool!”