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570 Chester County students participate in science competition

Phoenixville, PA – The 2012 Chester County Science Research Competition brought together 570 future scientists in grades 4 through 12 to compete against one another in the hopes of winning a number of awards and recognitions, and to increase their knowledge of the sciences. It also provided students in grades 6 through 12 the opportunity to qualify for the Delaware Valley Science Fair where they have a shot at over $1 million in college scholarships.

Though the Chester County Science Research Competition project categories are predetermined, the specific topics of the projects are limited only by the interest and imagination of the students. Topic ideas can be sparked by anything from the desire to find a solution to a household problem, to career aspirations in the field. And sometimes, from those sparks, a passion for the topic is ignited.

The competition, which is sponsored and coordinated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), was held at the Center for Arts & Technology (CAT) Pickering Campus in Phoenixville. Students in grades 6 through 12 competed in the Lucy Balian Rorke-Adams Fair on March 8, and students in grades 4 and 5 competed in the Jonas Salk Fair on March 9. The participants competed in 15 categories including: Behavioral and Social Science, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Consumer Science, Earth & Space Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Microbiology, Physics, Zoology, and Team Projects.

Some young scientists, such as Sarah Scheivert, who is an eighth grade student at Charles F. Patton Middle School in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, chose a topic that seeks to understand the function of a commonly used product.

Scheivert’s project, titled “The Effects of Hand Sanitizer and Soap on Bacteria,” earned a third place award in the Microbiology category, and helped shed light on how bacteria is combated by products that are used every day.

Other students, such as Great Valley High School senior Kartik Bhamidipati, chose a topic that explores career aspirations.

Bhamidipati has an interest in world health issues, so he participated in the Medicine and Health category with a project that examined preventing transmission of HIV-1 from mother to child.

“The fact that I was interested in science really hit me when I was in seventh grade. I was fascinated by how something as minuscule as cells could make something as complex as human bodies,” said Bhamidipati, who has participated in the science fair for five years. “Throughout high school, I’ve found that I am interested in the medical field, and HIV is a global health issue – I’m very interested in impacting the field on a global scale.”

Bhamidipati’s project earned him a second place award in the Medicine and Health category, and a spot at the Delaware Valley Science Fair.

Michael Gu, a junior at West Chester Henderson High School, selected “Screening for Cytotoxic Activity in Various Freshwater Algae” as his topic. Gu’s project focused on determining whether compounds produced by freshwater algae can be used to destroy cancer cells.

“A lot of research has been done in marine algae cytotoxins, but this is a very new thing since local freshwater algae hasn’t been studied much,” said Gu. “It was interesting how we could take an application of something else and apply it to something local.”

Gu has also participated in the science fair for five years and picked the topic based on his interest in natural compounds, and a desire to build upon research he has conducted for previous science fairs. He will now move on to the Delaware Valley Science Fair after being selected as the first place winner in Botany.

Just as students such as Bhamidipati and Gu return to the competition year after year, sometimes former participants return in order to give back to an event that helped foster their interest in science.

Such was the case when Devin Redding, a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, returned to the fair. While visiting the area, Redding volunteered her time to judge the Jonas Salk Fair.

Redding participated in the competition from grades 6 through 12 as a student in the Avon Grove School District where she developed her interest in science before moving on to West Point where she studies Environmental Science.

“My own experience at the science fair has definitely helped me in college,” said Redding. “Having the experience of designing and carrying out a research project or an experiment has paid off for me many times, especially during my capstone project. In order to graduate with honors, we have to design and carry out an experiment and create a poster reflecting our work.”

Students competed at the following levels: 4th and 5th grade students participated at “Level F;” 6th through 8th grade students participated at “Level E;” 9th grade students participated at “Level D;” 10th grade students participated at “Level C;” 11th grade students participated at “Level B;” and 12th grade students participated at “Level A.”

The awards ceremony for Levels A through E was held at Downingtown West High School, on March 14, during which it was2012 Best of Show announced that 90 students qualified for the Delaware Valley Science Fair, as well as regular awards, special awards, and the following Best of Show winners: Matthew Siracusa, Devon Preparatory School – Level E, first place; Brandon Barker, Saint Joseph School – Level E, second place; Amber Kearns, Chester County Home School – Level E, third place; Julia Kearns, Chester County Home School – Level D, first place; Russell Emery, Devon Preparatory School – Level D, second place; Sam Miller, Unionville High School – Level D, third place; Narahari Bharadwaj, Conestoga High School – Level D, third place; Sreejata Munsi, Conestoga High School – Level C, first place; Joseph Borraccini, Bishop Shanahan High School – Level C, second place; Michael Gu, West Chester Henderson High School – Level B, first place; Meghan Shea, Unionville High School – Level B, second place; Colin Johnson, Bishop Shanahan High School – Level B, third place; Andrew Romine, Unionville High School – Level A, first place; Saher-Zahra Khan, Conestoga High School – Level A, second place; Vadim Tanygin, Great Valley High School – Level A, third place; and, Andrew Friedman and Radhika Chunduru, West Chester Henderson High School – Team Project.

Awards were presented for Level F winners on the day of the fair and included the following Best of Show designations: Hannah Newman, Chester County Home School – first place; Samir Tandon, Charlestown Elementary School – second place; Grant Burgess, St. Basil the Great School – third place; and, Jonathan Huang and Oscar Southwell, Sugartown Elementary School – Team Project.

For a complete list of 2012 award-winners, please visit

The Chester County Science Research Competition is a feeder fair to the Delaware Valley fair, which will be held at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, April 3–5. The competition will include some 1,000 students from New Jersey, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania. Students competing at the Delaware Valley fair will have the opportunity to win their share of nearly $1 million in college scholarships as well as move on to the International Science and Engineering Fair hosted this year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For more information on the Chester County Science Research Competition, please click here.