- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nearly 300 of the District’s brightest young students competed yesterday for a spot in a national science competition during the city’s 61st annual Statewide Mathematics, Science and Technology Fair.

The fair, heldat McKinley Technology High School in Northeast, showcased research projects in 14 categories created by students in grades six through 12 in the District’s public, private and charter schools.

The grand prize went to four students from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Northwest. Matthew Pfiffer, 16; Will Mitchell, 17; David Amini, 16; and Billy Mohr, 17, analyzed properties of sound waves by running them through a methane flame.

The team will go on to compete in May in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M.

Joseph Church, 15, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Northwest, came in second with a project that showed the effect of several variables on the trajectory of toast ejected from a toaster.

For the students who didn’t win, the competition was still a chance to explore their interest in science.

“I like building things and taking things apart,” said Femi Bamiro, 12. “I’d like to build a car, plane or machine to help the elderly.”

He and Shawn Thomas, seventh-grade classmates at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Northwest, made model hovercrafts by gluing the mouths of balloons over the holes in the centers of compact discs.

Janet Burnett, 17, and Uchnenna Offor, 16, juniors at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Northwest, made a hovercraft out of a circular plywood board and a leaf-blower.

The students won entry into the citywide fair by winning fairs at their schools.

Iheoma Umez-Eronini, a 17-year-old senior at Banneker, built a functional device to administer anesthesia to small animals at the fraction of the cost of a device currently on the market.

Iheoma, who plans to study either electrical or biomedical engineering, said the device she modeled her version after costs about $2,000, while hers only cost about $200 to build.

“I think it’s fun to create things,” Iheoma said, adding that she was curious about creating a perpetual-motion device. “I know intellectually it doesn’t exist, but I want to pursue it.”

The competition was judged by scientists from, among other institutions, the National Institutes of Health, the Carnegie Institution and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, one of the event’s main sponsors.

Debra Yourick, associate director of the Walter Reed Institute said technology has greatly contributed to the sophistication of student projects.

“I think there’s a movement toward more sophistication earlier,” Miss Yourick said. “They can capture their data with technology that didn’t exist 20 years ago.”

However, she said students were judged not only on the complexity of their projects, but on how well they were executed and how much the students learned from them.

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