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Monday, March 04, 2024

Future researchers gather for science fair

<p>Twelve-year-old Amir Helmy, a seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School, explains his project, which uses smartphones to detect seizures and falls, to judge Alex Angerhofer, at this year’s Alachua Region Science and Engineering Fair at Santa Fe College.</p>

Twelve-year-old Amir Helmy, a seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School, explains his project, which uses smartphones to detect seizures and falls, to judge Alex Angerhofer, at this year’s Alachua Region Science and Engineering Fair at Santa Fe College.

An 11th-grader from Eastside High School stood tall next to a stark white tri-fold board, covered with charts, graphs and text.

She waited, a bit nervous, for a judge to appear.

Soon, a man wearing a badge and holding a clipboard walked toward Lucinda Peng, 16.

The two firmly shook hands and smiled. The interview began.

Peng, along with about 250 other middle and high school students from 18 schools, was part of the Alachua Region Science and Engineering Fair judging Wednesday at the Santa Fe College Gymnasium.

The science fair showcased projects from 13 categories, ranging from botany to mathematics to zoology.

ZoEllen Warren, regional science fair director, said the fair is about more than just science.

“It’s really a cross-curricular investigation that includes all subjects,” she said.

Peng’s project, titled “Foot Strike Patterns During Running,” fell under the physics category.

She began her experimentation in January.

Peng came up with the idea for her project because of her experience as a runner.

She has been running for the last 10 years and was injured for the first time three years ago.

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Her physical therapist told her that her foot strike pattern was probably not the best to prevent injury.

From then on, Peng said, she was curious to find out how foot strike patterns affected the forces applied during running.

“Since I got my first injury in ninth grade, I’ve wanted to do something like this,” she said. “I had to work really hard to convince my parents that this was possible because we didn’t know anyone in the field that could help me.”

Monika Oli, a judge and mentor for the science fair and a UF Department of Microbiology and Cell Science professor, has been a judge for about 10 years, attending science fairs and reviewing students’ projects from around the country.

“The experience to go to international science fair is one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said.

Some of the projects Oli has reviewed have their own patents, and some have been published.

Winners of the science fair don’t need to have sophisticated projects because it is about creativity, imagination and personal motivation, she said.

The fair winners will be announced Tuesday night at Lincoln Middle School.

Twelve-year-old Amir Helmy, a seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School, explains his project, which uses smartphones to detect seizures and falls, to judge Alex Angerhofer, at this year’s Alachua Region Science and Engineering Fair at Santa Fe College.

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