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The City Journals

Two Sandy students give advice as national middle school science fair winners

Feb 13, 2020 03:12PM ● By Julie Slama

Students Kassie Holt and Sidor Clare, who won top awards at the Broadcom MASTERS national middle school STEM competition, discuss their project at their school, Beehive Academy of Science and Technology. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“I would say do it. Don’t wait, just go for it. Find something you’re passionate about (or interested in) and discover something new. And definitely, never ever be afraid to fail.”

This is the advice Kassie Holt, a Broadcom MASTERS national middle school STEM competition award-winner, gives to students who may be entering their school science fairs. 

February is a common time for school districts and area charter schools to hold science fairs, bringing together a showcase of student talent exploring realms of science and engineering. It also is a stepping stone for elementary and middle school students to be selected for the University of Utah or BYU science fairs — and possibly, for the older students to be invited to Broadcom MASTERS (math, applied science, technology and engineering for rising stars).

Last year, Kassie, who attends Beehive Academy of Science and Technology, and her teammate, Sidor Clare, were one of 30 Broadcom finalists among the 3,000 invited to apply individually. Both came away with top awards as seventh graders — and in Sidor’s first time competing in a science fair. 

It also marked the first time in the competition’s history there were more female finalists than male, and Kassie and Sidor were Utah’s first female Broadcom MASTERS finalists along with Ogden’s Mercedes Randhahn, who received a second-place award.

In late October, after several days of judging, Sidor won the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, and Kassie received the first-place award in technology that awarded her $3,500 toward a science camp of her choice in the United States and an iPad. Kassie and her assigned team at the final competition also won the team award for working together to solve problems through shared decision-making, communication and scientific and engineering collaboration.

It was the first time in the competition’s history that all top five awards were awarded to females.

“I was so surprised I got an individual award because there were so many other people who were doing amazing things, but I was even more happy when they announced Sidor’s name as a winner,” Kassie said. 

However, the two Sandy girls said science projects for the fairs aren’t just trying an idea once; it’s hard work.

“Sidor and I tried three different ways of creating bricks before we found one that worked,” said Kassie, who has been competing in science fairs since fourth grade.

Their project, “Bound and Bricked,” was to make bricks by mixing resin with soil, which was donated from the University of Florida, that is similar to what would be found on Mars. The project demonstrated humans could use soil on Mars so they wouldn’t need to bring building materials, something that could benefit space efforts that now center on exploring the red planet in the next 10 years, Kassie said.

Sidor said their efforts resulted in bricks so strong they withstood a pneumatic press they used to test it at 10,000 pounds.

Sidor said that even after doing their research and testing their findings, being successful at STEM fairs also means being able to communicate their findings.

“Explaining things that are complex in a way that everyone can understand just takes a lot of practice,” Sidor said. “In between the different fairs, and sometimes in between getting judged, Kassie and I would refine the explanation of our project.”

Kassie adds the advice to be confident.

“No one knows more about your project than you do. You did it, be proud of what you’ve done. There’s no changes to be made now, so just go with it,” she said. “To us, this seemed simple, but we knew it was a problem that needed a solution. We knew it made a good project. I learned I like things that I didn’t think would interest me before we learned about them.”

Their project was also one where “we can have fun and explore,” Sidor said, adding that they used several materials before determining polyresin was the strongest material. “Space travel is cool, and it isn’t such a foreign concept as it was before our project.”

At the finals in Washington, D.C., they individually were judged on their project as well as their knowledge of STEM subjects. They were also given hands-on challenges with an assigned team of other finalists that included programming a Raspberry Pi, designing a pack that must hold a three-month supply of medicine in the event of a natural disaster, and seining with the Smithsonian Research Institute in the Chesapeake Bay.

Kassie had not coded before, but she said she learned step-by-step.

“It was so hard, but I had so much fun. I was pushed to the limit, but it was still fun,” she said.

Sidor had coded before, but not a Raspberry Pi. She also said she learned how to organize ideas and put them in action.

“With the operation lifeline project, my team knew we needed a certain insulation, but we spent too much time planning it, so we barely finished building it. We didn’t even have time to test it,” Sidor said.

Both girls and their separate teams donned waders to build underwater ROVs to identify and predict the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.

“It was really intriguing,” Kassie said. “We had to work as a team and only had one chance to do it.”

Through working with others on teams, the girls not only learned new skills, they became friends with others who did the challenges and still remain in contact. 

It also was Sidor’s first visit to the nation’s capital, where along with others, she toured the Smithsonian, monuments, Library of Congress, and attended “Sheer Madness” at Kennedy Center. She and Kassie also met with U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams.

Their school also benefitted from the girls’ experience as each finalist’s school received $1,000 from the Broadcom MASTERS program, meaning Beehive received $2,000.

Newsweek recently ranked the Sandy-based charter school as one of America’s top 5,000 STEM high schools for 2020 from more than 30,000 schools from across the nation that were analyzed during a three-year period.