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Chester County Science Research Competition Winners Celebrated at Awards Ceremony

On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, students in grades 6-12 from across Chester County gathered at the Technical College High School (TCHS) Brandywine Campus for the Dr. Lucy Balian Rorke-Adams Science Fair awards ceremony.

Last week, the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) coordinated the 35th annual Chester County Science Research Competition (CCSRC), hosted at the West Chester University Student Recreation Center. The two-day event, which included the Dr. Jonas Salk Fair for students in grades 4-5 and the Dr. Lucy Balian Rorke-Adams Fair for students in grades 6-12, gave participants the opportunity to showcase their passion for science. Of the 183 projects entered into the Rorke-Adams Fair of the CCSRC, 123 met the judges’ criteria of a winning project and were announced at the awards ceremony.

During the Rorke-Adams awards ceremony, students eagerly waited to see how they placed in the fair. Each category winner received a ribbon based on their project category and ranking. In addition to category winners, the CCIU also distributed special awards to 16 student winners, totaling nearly $800 in value.

High school students who placed first, second, or third in their category and middle school students who placed first or second will advance to the Delaware Valley Science Fairs (DVSF) held during the first week of April. The DVSF is split into six divisions: 12th grade, 11th grade, 10th grade, 9th grade, high school team projects, and 6-8th grade.

The top winners who will represent Chester County in the DVSF are as follows:

· 12th grade: Tennyson Nelson (Environmental Science), Avon Grove Charter School - Upper School

· 11th grade: Jerry Huynh (Microbiology), Westtown School

· 10th grade: Sruthi Desikan (Physics), Downingtown STEM Academy

· 9th grade: Shipra Kapoor (Medicine & Health), Unionville High School

· High school team project: Neha Chigurupati & Akshaya Venkatesh (Teams), Downingtown STEM Academy

· 6-8th grade: Kush Aggarwal (Physics), Charles F. Patton Middle School

Rithik Kamtam of Downingtown STEM Academy is one of 81 students who will compete at the DVSF. He won first place in the medicine and health category for his project, To Investigate the Impact of Insulin Resistance on Drosophila Melanogaster as Measured by Negative Geotaxis, and achieved second place for Best of Division in grade 10.

When asked to explain his project, Kamtam opened with how he became interested in insulin resistance. He said, “As part of the Design to Lead program by Sewa USA, my friends and I created a database to connect people who need insulin with subsidized insulin programs in the Philadelphia area. That really kickstarted my interest in wanting to learn about insulin and diabetes.”

Kamtam explained, “I fed Drosophila melanogaster, which is the scientific name for fruit flies, an insulin resistant diet. Using the data I collected, I performed negative geotaxis on the flies – which is a form of physical measurement. I recorded their times and was able to calculate the average time of the flies with the insulin resistant diet compared to the flies who were not on that diet. I came up with the percent difference in physical performance.”

Kamtam’s research extends beyond the work he did for the CCSRC. He emphasized that he is trying to contact local labs to repeat the experiment and scale the data to be applicable to humans.

“We always have judges emphasize how impressed they are with the students and projects at the CCSRC, but this year was over the top,” said Kathy Gurnee, special events coordinator for the CCIU who has organized the CCSRC for the last four years. “Judge after judge reported how much better they feel about our future with these bright, talented, and hard-working students leading the way.”

When asked what advice he would give to future CCSRC participants, Kamtam answered, “Take your time, understand what you want, and be passionate about it. That passion really drives you to put more effort into your project and helps to make sure that you are doing the best you possibly can.”