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Fauquier goes to the state science fair for the first time

Monday, Apr. 21 | By Fauquier Times Staff
Kamran Pirasteh (MVGS/LHS), Abby Duker (MVGS/KRHS), Sabrina Ferrero (MVGS/KRHS), Hannah Small (MVGS/KRHS) and Niles Ribeiro (FHS) on their way to the VA state Science Fair.
Courtesy Photo
For the first time in its 29-year history, the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair (VSSEF) hosted Fauquier County students at its competition last month. Five students from the county’s three public high schools, four of whom also attend Mountain Vista Governor’s School, faced nearly 230 students statewide and a battery of judges at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA on March 29.

The statewide science fair featured the best of the best: Students at VSSEF represented regional science fairs throughout Virginia that are affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) which requires adherence to strict scientific and ethical standards. There are 12 such fairs in Virginia with the Fauquier County Regional Science & Engineering Fair (FCRegionalSEF) being the newest.

The five Fauquier County students included three seniors from MVGS/Kettle Run High School, representing first through third place respectively from the FCRegionalSEF: Hannah Small, first place winner; Abby Duker, second place; and Sabrina Ferrero, third place. The male contingent of FCRegionalSEF was comprised of honorable mention winner Kamran Pirasteh, a senior from MVGS/Liberty High School, and participant Niles Ribeiro, a sophomore from Fauquier High School.

Last year each of 10 regional fairs was allotted 19 slots for their students to advance to the state competition with Fairfax County Regional Science & Engineering Fair getting the lion’s share (75 slots) to reflect its more densely populated region and higher levels of participation. With this being Fauquier County’s first entry to the state competition, the fledgling fair was assigned five student slots, and Fairfax County’s quota was reduced to 70. (Not all regional fairs send the maximum number of students they are allowed, which allows for redistribution of available slots so that some demographic reshuffling tends to occur.)

The VSSEF is judged in 17 categories: animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, earth and planetary science, energy and transportation, electrical and mechanical engineering, materials and bioengineering, environmental management, environmental sciences, mathematical sciences, medical and health Sciences, microbiology, physics and astronomy, and plant sciences. Nearly 100 experts in their fields volunteered the day to judge the projects, beginning with check-in at 7 a.m. on Saturday. The awards ceremony concluded at 5:30 p.m.
First through third places were awarded in each category, and then an additional round of judging was held among the 17 category winners to determine the grand prize winners. In addition, various companies and organizations awarded many special prizes. Although Fauquier County students did not place in VSSEF, this group of pioneers paved the way for attendees in future years.

The four student winners from Fauquier County’s Regional fair had collectively won $ 3,000 in cash on the previous weekend, courtesy of the main sponsors of the regional fair, Sharp Science Students Foundation and Linda and John Suter. Hannah Small, whose project “Efficacy of MSG as Positive Reinforcement in D. melanogaster Learning” won $ 1,500 and the first place prize at the Fauquier County Regionals, will travel to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair at a weeklong, all-expenses paid trip in Los Angeles next month.

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