Camas students clean up at regional fair

Three qualify for Intel’s international competition

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Camas High School students Akash Prasad (left) and Jacob Leetham (right) talk about their project during the Southwest Washington Science and Engineering Fair, held Saturday, March 2, at Skyview High School in Vancouver.

Camas High School students have competed in the Southwest Washington Science and Engineering Fair for more than 10 years, and in most of those years they’ve done fairly well.

“Part of it is knowing the system,” said Derek Jaques, Camas School District’s career technical education (CTE) director. “The kids understand that and know what it takes to compete. They’re lucky to have great mentors and teachers, and the partnerships that we have with local businesses and community members are a big reason we do well at these events.”

Twenty-four Camas High School students competed at the 2019 fair, held Saturday, March 2, at Skyview High School in Vancouver, and 22 of those students won a prize.

Both “Best in Fair” honors went to Camas students — Rahul Ram for “Origin Mechanism of Ovarian Germ Cell Teratomas,” and Gareth Starratt and Julian McOmie for “Implementing LiDar in a Simultaneous Localization and Mapping System.”

“(The competitors are) high-achieving students who are heavily involved in research and Advanced Placement coursework,” Jaques said. “They’re typically headed to four-year universities. They’re amazing kids. They volunteer in the community and are often athletes. They’re well-rounded students.”

Most of the competing students are part of Camas High School’s magnet program for science, math and technology, and spent several months researching and putting together their projects.

“Learning how research works is a critical component, and picking an area of interest is key as well,” Jaques said. “The students choose an area that they’re interested in and select a project they think is relevant. They don’t want to do a project that’s already been done.”

Although the students who compete at the science and engineering fair are high-achievers, the CTE director said the Camas School District hopes to involve a wider variety of students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses.

“We want to start expanding to other courses to bring the scientific research component to all kids and have real project learning far more solidified,” Jaques said. “We’re hoping to grow our (participation) by incorporating more students across the entire curriculum for STEM classes.”

Almost 100 students from Camas, Skyview, Columbia River, Mark Morris and Prairie high schools entered projects in 17 different categories, the most popular being earth and environmental science, environmental engineering, microbiology and materials science.

“I was very impressed with the maturity of the students,” said Washington STEM’s Scott Culbertson, who helped to organize the event. “They give me hope. The level of work the students were doing was really amazing. The fair was a great success.”

Several Camas students will compete in the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held March 29-30 in Bremerton. By virtue of their top Saturday finishes, Ram, Starratt and McOmie are automatically qualified for the the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, to be held in May in Arizona.

“The kids who win are very competitive,” Jaques said. “The process is good for all of the kids. Their projects are peer reviewed, which is a powerful component. Through the judging they’re able to get feedback from (experts) in that field, and that’s a big part of the learning process.

“They also (learn) presentation and communication skills to explain their research.”

Following is a complete list of the Camas High School students who competed Saturday, their projects and prizes:

Monica Chang, Benjamin Thomas and Eric Yuan: “Characterization and inhabitation of Cdc14 in Thielaviopsis punctulata: A target for novel fungicide development,” first place, biochemistry.

Tyler Gee: “Developing a Cloud-Based iOS App for Homework Management,” first place, systems software.

Alex Gee, Jaden Lee and Joseph Stanley: “Low Wattage Aquaponics,” third place, environmental engineering.

Andrew Kim: “Analyzing Medication Filtration by Mussels,” first place, environmental engineering.

Junha Lee: “Studying the Effects of Plant-Derived Anti-Microbial Substances on Cultures of E. coli,” third place, microbiology.

Justine Pendergraft: “Building a Low-Cost 3-D Printed Robotic Hand.”

Akash Prasad, Jacob Leetham and Owen Baenen: “Using TiO2 to Photo-Degrade Rhodamine B Dye,” third place, earth and environmental science.

Rahul Ram: “Origin Mechanism of Ovarian Germ Cell Teratomas,” first place, computational biology and bioinformatics; best in show.

Sitara Shankar: “Order of Antibiotics and Phages Applications.”

Tyler Stanley, Benjamin Saunders and Michael Lee: “The Effect and Interaction of Multiple Wing Slats on Laminar Flow Separation and Other Subject Areas,” first place, engineering mechanics.

Gareth Starratt and Julian McOmie: “Implementing LiDar in a Simultaneous Localization and Mapping System,” first place, robotics and intelligent machines; best in show.

Alexis Williams, Amy Rude and Megana Kommareddy: “Creating Sustainable Fuel with Algae Biodiesel,” second place, environmental engineering.