Congratulations to our 2019 Vermont STEM fair water quality project winners! The four students were chosen from among 200 student scientists who presented their projects on March 30, at Norwich University. The annual fair features exhibits by middle and high school students from throughout the state, all of whom won local-level competitions for their experiments.
Clearly, cyanobacteria/algae and phosphorus are hot topics in Vermont’s schools, and all four 2019 winners addressed them in various ways.
Virginia Snyder, in 11th grade at Windsor Schools, won the top award of $150 for her project “Designing a Solar-powered Ultrasonic Cyanobacteria Growth Inhibitor.” Virginia explored using sound to suppress algae blooms by exposing four colonies of Anabaena to different ultrasonic wavelengths. She is motivated by the technology’s potential to treat natural bodies of water, but in the near future hopes to run tests on her algae growth inhibitor in home fish aquariums. GMWEA’s judges were impressed by her knowledge of biology and sound physics, her use of multiple means of assessment, and the quality of her exhibit. She is the student of Catharine Engwall.
Audrey Chairvolotti, a home-schooled 9th grader from Grand Isle, also won GMWEA’s top award of $150 for “Effects of Nonpoint-Source Pollutants on Cyanobacteria Growth.” Also concerned with algae blooms in Lake Champlain, Audrey collected cyanobacteria samples from a dense bloom on the lake, then tested their growth in 14 different solutions. The judges appreciated the thoroughness of her experimental protocols, her management of controls, her enthusiasm, and her understanding of biochemistry, as demonstrated in discussion and her exhibit. She cites her mother, Sheila Chairvolotti, as her instructor for the project.
Emily King, a 9th grader at Missisquoi Valley Union H.S., won $100 for “How Effective Will Substances Be in Binding to Phosphorus During Filtration?” Seeking to identify possible phosphorus (P) mitigation methods, Emily explored chemicals likely to bond with P, potentially allowing for filtration prior to entry to Lake Champlain. She envisions additional testing to determine impacts of the binders on aquatic animal and plant life. The judges were struck by her trans-disciplinary approach – testing P binders known from the treatment of kidney disease – and consideration of both possibilities and impediments to use of phosphorous-binding filtration. She is a student of Richard Ballard.
Jaylyn Davidson, a 10th grader at Northfield High School, won GMWEA’s $50 scholarship for “Is Algae Part of the Solution for Environmental Pollution?” Jaylyn explored the potentials for three types of algae and a flowering aquatic plant (duckweed) to help mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by sequestering CO2 through “farming” in lakes and oceans. Growing each in four different nutrient solutions, she assessed biomass increase as a measure of CO2 uptake. The judges appreciated her concern for the global environment, her understanding of biochemistry, and her motivation to pursue a career in marine biology. She is the student of Shane Heath.
We commend these terrific young scientists for their enthusiasm, discipline, and devotion to water ecosystems!
Many thanks are due to Aaron Perez and Paul Sestito, water systems specialists at Vermont Rural Water Association, for joining executive director Daniel Hecht to judge this year’s STEM fair.
To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.