The Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) is a nonprofit educational organization that has promoted science and engineering in Orange County since 1955. The educators, scientists, and engineers who volunteer their services are committed to educating, guiding, and motivating students to engage in project-based learning in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to be college and career ready in the 21st century.
Four high school students were selected to represent Orange County at the 2016 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.
Sabreen Alam, a 6th grader in Deerfield Elementary during the 2015-2016 school year, won an Honorable Mention in the field of Product Science at the State Science Fair. Her award-winning project was titled “Natural Foods: Better to Fight Angiogenesis than Drugs?,” a project focused on comparing the effects of natural foods and drugs on angiogenesis with relation to cancerous tumors. Angiogenesis is the production of blood vessels, which is important both in health and disease.
Sabreen first became interested in cancer as her field of study after “winning a trip to Google.” Upon developing her interest, she conducted some research from which she discovered that angiogenesis played a big part in the growth and support of cancer tumors. She was inspired for her project idea when she found out that some natural foods acted as angiogenesis inhibitors. Sabreen felt that “third world countries could benefit” from her investigation, as many “citizens can’t purchase expensive cancer drugs.”
A major obstacle Sabreen faced along the way was the amount of time she had to conduct this project. She was given only three weeks to complete her project due to her original project failing to comply with OCSEF guidelines. She found it “extremely difficult and time consuming to have to come up with and finish and Science Fair Project in 3 weeks.” Despite the time pressures, Sabreen won 2nd place in the County Science Fair, and advanced to the State Science Fair.
Through this experience, Sabreen felt she has learned values and important life lessons. “Never stop learning,” she said. “Always persevere and never give up.” She feels her most important and most powerful lesson was to “never see failure as a stop sign.”
At the end of a successful science fair journey, Sabreen feels that the “science fair has been a beneficial and enriching experience” and plans to participate next year.
Pranav Moudgalya, a 6th grader at Turtle Rock Elementary School, and his partner Michael McPhie devised a project titled “Extraordinary Elodea: A Look into the World of Pollution.” With this project, they qualified for Broadcom Masters and competed at the California State Science Fair
With pollutants such as carbon dioxide steadily rising, they “decided to address the harmful and detrimental effects of acidic rain on a plant called Elodea anacharis.” Plants produce the vital oxygen that we need to survive, so “measuring the effects of pollution on [plants] would greater prove and educate people about the dangers of ecological breakdown.”
After over a month of research, they devised two methods to measure the rate of oxygen production in Elodea when watered with “rain” of different pHs. However, throughout their research, they struggled with finding a way to manually measure oxygen. “[They] had to get creative!]” Luckily, they overcame this problem and after two days of strenuous experimentation, they concluded that Elodea produces the most oxygen in water with a pH of 6, second most in 9, and the least in water with a pH of 3.
Pranav really loves science fair because he is able to have “positive learning experience where [he] connects with other people who share similar interests.” Though working with the hard sciences, Pranav is still able to use creativity, create lasting friendships, and acquire skills he needs for the rest of his life. He looks forward to participating in science fair again next year.
Joshua Sohn was a 8th grader at Jeffrey Trail Middle School and received 5th place in the Applied Mechanics and Structure Junior Division of the 64th annual California State Science and Engineering Fair. His project was titled The Effect of Fencing on the Knee. The project investigated the effect lunging in the sport of fencing has on the knee and ways to minimize knee injuries.
Joshua himself is a part of a fencing club. He enjoys fencing and various other sports. In his free time, he fools around with his friends or relaxes with music or Netflix.
Inspiration for his project came from his fencing club. Joshua states, “Many of my fellow fencers at my club always wore a knee brace or KT tape – kinesiology tape designed for muscle pain relief and support.” Seeing these fencers dealing with knee issues led him to do some research about fencing knee injuries which suggested an enormous association. Armed with his observations and research, Joshua set out to design an experiment to test the true effect fencing lunges have on the knee.
This project endeavor was not without obstacles however. Since his project involved force applied on the knee, Joshua needed a model of the knee that could withstand applied force for the purpose of measurement. Unfortunately, no suitable knee models were available for consumer purchase. As a result of this setback, Joshua needed to build his own knee model. He proceeded by purchasing wood and building a simplified knee structure capable of simulating the fencing lunge. From this experience, he learned that sometimes fitting models do not exist on the market and self-designed equipment is often the most reliable.
Joshua is sure the process and results of his project can be further expanded. He believes there is much room to expand his project to sports other than fencing. Furthermore, a knee brace could be developed to measure force on the knee real-time while an athlete moves around, assisting in more applicable measurements. Generalizing to the entire category of injury-prone sports could benefit athletes everywhere.
For students looking to proceed with a science fair project, Joshua encourages them to stay interested. He believes “the most important part of science research is pursuing what you are truly interested in. Other projects may sound more advanced than yours, but you’ll do the best when you stick to what you are most passionate about.”
Melina Ghodsi was a 7th grader at Fairmont Private School in the 2015-16 school year who won 2nd place at Orange County Science and Engineering Fair in the Microbiology Category, Broadcom Masters Award at Orange County Science and Engineering Fair, and Honorable Mention in Microbiology-Medical Category at California State Science Fair for her science fair project.
Getting inspired for a science fair project can come from anywhere, anyone, and anything. In Melina’s case, she was inspired by her father who is a dentist, and a toothbrush. She was intrigued about the possibility of bacteria transferring from her toothbrush to her mouth each night; and with her father’s warning about keeping her teeth clean in mind, Melina just had to answer her questions: Is my toothbrush actually clean? How can I keep it clean?
Melina’s passion for science started when she was first exposed to the science lab in elementary school. Her science teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Conklin, was “such an encouraging teacher,” and from the time she spent with Mrs. Conklin, Melina became “a nerd for science.”
Originally, Melina participated in the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair because it was an assignment, like many other students in her grade. But, unlike the others, Melina chose to “take it to a new level and really have a project that has a purpose and could add something to your everyday life.” In return for her dedicated hard work and thoughtful project, Melina’s science fair journey only went uphill from there. From her school fair where she won first place in the Microbiology Category, Melina continued on her journey to win at the California State Science Fair.
As her advice to other aspiring scientists like her, Melina says, “If you strive high enough then you will get there. If you strive low then you will also only get so high. Strive high and make the most out of your opportunities.” It was the same case for Melina. When she first started her project, her father said, “We’re going to state, honey!” Of course Melina thought it was crazy at first, but because of her high goals and hard work, she was able to realize her hopes.
“I would encourage others who participate in the fair to not underestimate the amount of effort you must put into the fair,” Melina Ghodsi said. Afterall, inspiration can be just around the corner, even in the small tool used to clean bacteria off teeth.
Jiwon Chae was an 8th grader at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School in the 2015-2016 school year. He placed third in the Junior Division in the category of Energy Conversion, and his project title is “The Effect of Varying Pitch on Voltage Generated by Vertical Axis Wind Turbines.” In this project, Jiwon investigated the different pitches of blades that generated the most voltage with three wind speeds. Considering the global energy issue at hand, a method to produce efficient alternative energy could be a valuable tool to people everywhere.
The purpose of Jiwon’s project was to determine the pitch of the blade that generated the most voltage within three different wind speeds. He hypothesized that because of smoother air flow created by the design, the Savonius (drag) type blade pitched at thirty degrees would produce the greatest amount of voltage. The wind turbine generated power via a magneto, a generator that utilizes the fact that a magnetic field can interact with an electric circuit in order to create voltage. Three separate blade frames pitched at different angles served as the independent variables of his experiment. After three trials of testing at three different wind speeds, it was proven that his hypothesis was correct; the frame pitched at thirty degrees did consistently provide greater amounts of voltage.
Jiwon learned many things throughout his project, and has much advice to give to student researchers. “Do not be afraid to put forward and project” and “start early in order to avoid the race against time” that he had faced during the latter half of his project. If you ever get stuck, “do not hesitate to get help from teachers and even scientists.” “When seeking help from those who are more knowledgeable than you, be sure to put in the research that help your mentors make sense of your work.”
Outside of science fair, Jiwon enjoys reading books, particularly science fiction and alternative history. he plays the alto saxophone, and takes pleasure in hiking at various National Parks that he visits. He also loves assembling and painting plastic scale model kits because or the sense of history it provides.