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Two Hillcrest High, Three Midvale Middle Students Take Science Fair to Next Level

Jun 02, 2017 11:04AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School sixth-grade students Abigail Slama-Catron and Eric Snaufer took first place in the regional Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair and received an invitation to apply to the national fair. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama   |  Julie@mycityjournals.com
 
A Hillcrest High student may have discovered a faster, more accurate way to identify macular degeneration.
 
“When it is treated sooner, there will be less damage and hopefully, not result in blindness,” said Alex Cheng, who is a sophomore. “The earlier to detect it, the better. Some judges at the science fair seemed really interested since they or their family members have macular degeneration.”
 
Alex said that currently 11 million people are affected by the disease, but projections are that it will double by 2050.
 
“This could help serve as a pre-screening, especially for people who live in rural areas,” he said about his science fair project that results in an initial diagnosis in 30 seconds instead of current longer methods.
 
Alex, who entered his method that combines medical diagnostics with computer science in “Analysis of Retinal Fundus Images to Detect Macular Degeneration Using Machine-learning Methods,” not only won his materials and biomedical engineering senior division category, but he was one of two Hillcrest High school students who won Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair to advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. 
 
Joining him to compete for college scholarships are Alex Sun, who with his sister, Emma Sun, of Waterford, won first place with their behavioral and social sciences project, “Understanding Compassion Fade.”
 
Hillcrest High’s Sai Parsawar was second in medicine and health sciences with “MS of MS: An Investigation of the Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteome of Multiple Sclerosis Patients Using Bruker maXis II ETD Mass Spectrometry” and Hillcrest High’s Alan Zhao was third in physics, astronomy and math, with “Modeling Traffic Flow Using Advanced Mathematics.”
 
Alex said although he has spent about six months doing research on his own, his method is in its infancy and will still need more development.
 
“I like that through science fair, I’ve learned there is not one set solution.  I can creatively think in different ways and discover my own findings ways to approach problems,” he said.
 
In addition to the high school students, three Midvale Middle School sixth-grade students received an invitation to apply to the National Broadcom Science Fair.
 
Fair Manager Jody Oostema said that 41 projects or the top 10 percent of the Salt Lake Valley’s fair receives invitations.  From there, it is narrowed to about 300 semi-finalists nationwide.
 
“We usually have two to six students reach semifinals and a few in the finals,” she said.  “We’ve seen some new innovative ways to solve problems.” 
 
Solving real-world problems, such as birds striking airplanes commonly made known through “The Miracle on the Hudson” was an underlying motivation for Midvale Middle School sixth-graders Eric Snaufer and Abigail Slama-Catron, both who live in Sandy.  Their air scare device prototype worked in relocating birds from nesting in the air fields after two weeks of testing it at Salt Lake International Airport.
 
“We used an anemometer to determine the air flow in a connector to the portable device we built as well as determine the air flow for various air socks we sewed,” said Eric, who said they worked on the project for months.  “I was surprised we did so well.”
 
In addition to winning their elementary division category of mechanical engineering with their project, “Rough Air”, they also won special awards from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Utah Department of Transportation.
 
Marianne Liu, who finished second in earth and environmental sciences with “Savvy Salt” also received an invitation to apply to the National Broadcom Science Fair.
 
Other special award winners include Wensen Zhang from the American Meteorological Society with the project, “Trajectory Prediction of Atlantic Hurricanes With A Multi-Layer Perceptron Artificial Neural Network”; Alan Zhao with the Mu Alpha Theta award; and Sai Parsawar with an award from the U.S. Navy.  All the winners are Hillcrest High students.
 
Oostema said that this year, Salt Lake Valley’s 15th annual fair had 724 elementary through high school participants, a record number of students, with 57 percent being female.  That is an increase of about 500 students since 2005 and the number of projects this year is up 16 from last year to 573.
 
In addition to private and charter schools, the fair includes public school students from Salt Lake, Granite, Murray, Tooele, Park City and Canyons school districts.
 
Next year, the fair will undergo a name change to University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair, which will reflect the host school, she said.
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