Eleven Society for Science & the Public Alumni Participate in the Fifth White House Science Fair | Society for Science & the Public

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Eleven Society for Science & the Public Alumni Participate in the Fifth White House Science Fair

March 25, 2015

Eleven Society for Science & the Public (SSP) science fair alumni attended the fifth White House Science Fair today. All eleven students were participants in at least one of SSP’s prestigious science education programs, which include the Intel Science Talent Search, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and the Broadcom MASTERS.

The students participating were Nikhil Behari, 14, of Sewickley, PA; Kelly Charley, 16, from Teec Nos Pos, AZ; Bluye DeMessie, 18 from Mason, OH; Anvita Gupta, 17, from Scottsdale, AZ; Nathan Han, 16, from Boston, MA; Holly Jackson, 14, from San Jose, CA; Eric Koehlmoos, 18, from Granville, IA; Alon Millet, 17, from Hackensack, NJ; Natalie Ng, 19, from Cupertino, CA; Ruchi Pandya, 18, from Saratoga, CA; and Harry Paul, 18, from Port Washington, NY. This is the fifth White House Science Fair that SSP alumni have been invited to attend.

“Events like the White House Science Fair not only reward successful and dedicated young researchers and inventors, but they also help inspire the next generation of students and build the talent pipeline,” said Maya Ajmera, CEO and President of Society for Science & the Public, Publisher of Science News, and a Science Talent Search alumna. “We congratulate all of the students selected to attend and thank President Obama for his recognition of the importance of STEM education and hands-on learning.”

Several student participants, including Behari, Gupta, Pandya, and Paul got to present their work to President Obama and were mentioned in his remarks. In addition, Charley, DeMessie, Han, Jackson, Koehlmoos, and Ng were able to exhibit their projects at the White House.

“There’s a reason so many young people love science. It’s fun, it’s fascinating, and it helps us solve the mysteries of our world,” said President Obama. “I want more boys and girls across America to get the chance to study science, technology, engineering and math – and maybe have the opportunity to go on to careers in those fields, too. So I’m glad so many organizations are stepping up to support STEM education.  When we invest in our young people, we invest in our future.”

In conjunction with the White House Science Fair, SSP also announced a commitment to launch a pilot SSP mini-grant program in 2015. This program will support under-served and socio-economically challenged students who have done scientific research by helping them to take the next step and submit their research for presentation and competition. Grants will be provided to individuals such as teachers, counselors, or mentors who agree to serve as an advocate for a group of 3-5 students and assist them in transitioning from conducting a scientific or engineering research project to completing the application for scientific competition(s).

“We think it’s vitally important to continue building and diversifying the pool of students participating in science fairs and other STEM competitions.” adds Ajmera. “This pilot grant will let us test out, on a small scale, if having a dedicated advocate impacts participation rates.”

The SSP Alumni Participants:

Behari won a second place award in Technology at the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS for his project creating a security system that uses the manner in which people type as a means of secondary authentication for safer passwords. He used piezoelectric sensors connected to an Arduino microprocessor he had programmed to detect keystroke pressure. A separate program measured action and pause time as users typed on the pressure-monitoring keyboard.

Charley was a finalist in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014 for her project on using water to heat a solar Hogan. She built a solar panel and discovered which section of the roof and which solar panel design absorbed the most energy to create the greatest temperature inside the Hogan using water and antifreeze mediums.

DeMessie was a finalist at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2013 and 2014 for his projects on water filtration. In 2014, he won a second award in Environmental Management and a scholarship from Arizona State University. In 2013, he won a fourth award in Environmental Management and several special awards.

Gupta won a third place award in Global Good at the Intel STS 2015 for her project using machine learning to “teach” a computer to identify potential drugs for cancer, tuberculosis and Ebola. Preclinical trials are already underway in China on the tuberculosis drugs that she identified. She was also a finalist at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014. In addition, she started an after-school computer science group to teach middle school girls programming and app development.

Han won the Gordon E. Moore award, the top award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014, for his project developing a machine learning software tool to study mutations of a gene linked to breast cancer. Using data from publicly available databases, Han examined detailed characteristics of multiple mutations of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene in order to “teach” his software to differentiate between mutations that cause disease and those that do not. Han was also a finalist at the 2011 Broadcom MASTERS.

Jackson won the top award at the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS for her project investigating the ancient art of sewing from an architectural point of view. Holly's interest in sewing, a hobby she learned from her grandmother in the 4th grade, and scientific curiosity led her to explore the relative strength and compatibility of threads and fabrics, information needed in order to create additional strength and flexibility in sewn materials for the 21st century.

Koehlmoos was an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist in 2014 and an Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist in 2015. His project compared the ethanol yield and feed value of distiller grains of switchgrass and prairie cordgrass pretreated with calcium hydroxide, compared to non-treated, in hopes of creating additional ethanol production without competing with the food supply while also providing wildlife habitat and erosion control.

Millet won a second award in Plant Sciences and a development- focused award from the US Agency for International Development at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014 for his project on Cellulose Binding Domain and implications for its use in agriculture and biofuel production.

Ng was a finalist at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair from 2012-2014 and an Intel Science Talent Search finalist in 2014, where she won fifth place. She developed a diagnostic tool that may predict the spread of breast cancer cells to other parts of the body more accurately. Her prediction models may one day be used to guide long-term strategies for treatment.

Pandya was a semifinalist at the Intel Science Talent Search 2015 for her project combining nanotechnology, biology, and electrochemistry. She developed a one square centimeter carbon nanofiber electrode based biosensor that tests for specific cardiac biomarkers.

Paul won a Best of Category award in Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering and the Innovation Exploration Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014 for his project studying congenital scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spinal column caused by in utero segmentation failures. His research provides a novel implant for the treatment of congenital scoliosis that has the promise of lowering the number of risky revision procedures from over a dozen to less than five over the course of pediatric surgical treatment. Paul was also an Intel STS 2014 semifinalist.

About SSP:
Society for Science & the Public (SSP) is one of the nation’s oldest non-profit membership organizations dedicated to public engagement in science and science education. Established in
1921, SSP is a leading advocate for the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement. Through its acclaimed education competitions, including the Intel Science Talent Search, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and the Broadcom MASTERS, and its award-winning publications, Science News and Science News for Students, Society for Science & the Public is committed to inform, educate, and inspire.

For more information about SSP and its work, please visit societyforscience.org or follow SSP on
Facebook and through Twitter.

About Broadcom MASTERS:
Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), a
program of Society for Science & the Public sponsored by Broadcom Foundation, is the premier national science, technology, engineering and math competition for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. It recognizes 300 top middle school students as semifinalists each year, with 30 named as finalists and invited to spend a week participating in final judging, displaying their work to the public, meeting with notable dignitaries, and competing for many awards, including the top award of $25,000. Broadcom MASTERS inspires and encourages young scientists, engineers and innovators to become college and career-ready by continuing their STEM studies into high school and beyond. For more information, please visit https://student.societyforscience.org/broadcom-masters.  

About the Intel Science Talent Search:
The Intel Science Talent Search, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition. Alumni of the program have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most distinguished science and math honors, including eight Nobel Prizes. The Intel Science Talent Search recognizes 300 students as semifinalists each year. From that select pool, 40 student finalists are invited to Washington, DC in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for the top awards of $150,000. For more information, please visit https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-sts.    

About the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair:
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the
Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair provides a forum for more than 1,700 high school students from more than 70 countries, regions, and territories to showcase their independent research annually. Each year, millions of students worldwide compete in local science fairs; winners go on to participate in affiliated regional, state and national fairs to earn the opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The competition provides the opportunity for finalists to display their talent on an international stage, while enabling them to submit their work for judging by doctoral-level scientists. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair provides more than $5 million in prizes and scholarships annually. For more information, please visit https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-isef