Martha’s Vineyard high school science fair showcases student creativity

The grand prize winners at the 15th Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Science Fair included (from left): Patrick Best and Pearl Vercruysse, first place; Alistair Rizza, third place; and Samantha Potter, second place. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

A project by students Patrick Best and Pearl Vercruysee that used mirrors to produce electricity from cyanobacteria took the grand prize at the 15th Martha’s Vineyard Regional HIgh School (MVRHS) science fair Saturday. Held in the high school cafeteria and library, the event attracted a big crowd.

“We found out that cyanobacteria could produce electricity, and that it could be the source of renewable energy,” Pearl told The Times.

“It’s really important in terms of being a renewable resource, because the way the bacteria produce it is in a carbon-negative manner, by absorbing carbon dioxide to produce energy, which is kind of the opposite of coal,” Patrick said.

He and Pearl also won a special award for an energy-related project from the Cape Light Compact.

Samantha Potter won the second place grand prize for her project on measuring the pH levels in Crystal Lake in Oak Bluffs.

The third place grand prize went to Alistair Rizza for her “Pocket Life Saver,” an app she designed for cell phones and personal electronic devices with tips and instructions on cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid for victims of seizures, heart attacks, and strokes.

The three grand prize awards were presented in honor of former Tisbury Waterways president Dr. James H. Porter. The awards included cash prizes of $200 for first place, $175 for second, and $150 for third.

The grand prize winners were selected from among five entries that received first place awards.

The science fair also featured a wind turbine engineering competition, with prizes sponsored by the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative and the Vineyard Conservation Society. Gordon Moore won first place, with a cash award of $150, for designing the turbine with the best energy output, as evaluated by its performance in a wind tunnel. Cole Parris and David Dasilva won second place ($125) and Charles Morano third place ($100).

This year’s fair featured 64 projects. Although participation was lower than in past years, the judges were impressed by the high quality and excellence of the presentations, said MVRHS science teacher Jackie Hermann, the fair’s organizer. The judges included a variety of people with science and engineering backgrounds, from on the Island and off.

First place awards ($125): Patrick Best and Pearl Vercruysse (Do Mirrors Have an Effect on the Electrogenic Output of Different Species of Cyanobacteria?); Samantha Potter (The pH Levels in Crystal Lake); Alistair Rizza (Pocket Life Saver); Emma Caron (Color My Run); Eleah Caseau (The Dorm Mate).

Second place awards($100): Olivia Smith (Eye Wanna Know: Which Contact Solution Disinfects the Best?); Molly Houghton (Color Changing Toothpaste); Olivia Jacobs (Using the Heliotracking Abilities of A Sunflower to Harness Solar Energy); Emily Moore (Does the Maximum Temperature of Reusable Handwarmers Change with Repeated Use?); David Packer (Testing of ROV Propulsion Systems); August Welles (Capturing Rain Water).

Third place awards ($75): Justine Cassel (Efficient Propeller Design);Courtney Howell (Water Resistant Boot Covers); Casey McAndrews (Salinity Meter for Water Purification); Brahmin Thurber-Carbone (Does Temperature Affect the Bounce Height of a Ball?); Willa Vigneault (Lead Content in Certain Teas); Kyra Whalen (Clip It).

Honorable Mentions: Mitchell Chaves (Aluminum vs. Wood Baseball Bats); Caroline Hermann (Ozone: Good Up High – Bad Nearby); Kaela Vecchia-Zeitz (The Way to Healthy Non-toxic Nail Polish).

Special Topic Awards

The David Brand Award for an outstanding project related to earth science: Willa Vigneault.

Friends of Sengekontacket Award for a project on water quality or salt marsh ecology: Samantha Potter.

Island Grown Initiative award given to a project that focuses on agricultural systems and techniques that support biodiversity or address traditional or historic Island agriculture: Max Santos (The Effect of Cold Storage on Seeds).

Lagoon Pond Association Award given to a project that addresses a water quality issue with application to the protection of the water resources of Martha’s Vineyard: Casey McAndrews.

Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute Award for an outstanding marine or coastal science project that might include any aspect of science, fishing, engineering, or conservation:Mary McCarthy and Lena Hanschka (The Effect of Different Salinities on Brine Shrimp).

Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association Award for a project that focuses on increasing the awareness and understanding of aspects of our marine environment provided in memory of Donald K. Boyd: Caley Bennett (Biogae: Converting Algae into Biofuel.)

Sustainability Awards presented to the top male and female projects that involve the recycling or reuse of materials for a new purpose, or that involve methods of reducing energy or materials consumption sponsored by the Munn Family: Olivia Jacobs.

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation award given to the project that may benefit the environmental and ecological management of the lands of Martha’s Vineyard: Oliver Silberstein (Sprouting Up: The Effects of Growlight).

The special award winners received a cash prize of $100.