St. Mary School wins more science-fair honors

AWARD-WINNING GROUP Students from St. Mary School in Oak Ridge who won science-fair awards gather for a photo. Daniel Mountain (far left, third row) was the fair’s grand champion. Courtesy of Kathryn Chou

AWARD-WINNING GROUP Students from St. Mary School in Oak Ridge who won science-fair awards gather for a photo. Daniel Mountain (far left, third row) was the fair’s grand champion. Courtesy of Kathryn Chou

St. Mary School in Oak Ridge has a long tradition of success at the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair, and the winning string continued this spring as a St. Mary student earned grand-champion honors for the sixth year in a row.

Daniel Mountain won the top prize—a trophy and $200—with his project, “In a Fog.” The fair was held in early April at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus.

Daniel came up with the idea for his project one day when he was riding in a car with his mother.

“It was foggy and he was looking out at what he could see and couldn’t see and he got to wondering about what was a certain color that was easier to see in the fog,” said St. Mary science teacher Marsha Sega.

“So he built a long cylinder thing, and they got a fog-making machine and they filled it up with fog and they put different colored objects in it, shone the car headlights on it, and moved the object back until they couldn’t see it anymore. Then he recorded the distance and what color was the best for what he could see best.”

As is usually the case with students’ science-fair projects, Daniel’s “was completely his idea,” said Mrs. Sega.

“In this instance it was his idea based on something that happened to him,” she said. “Some of the kids get ideas from the Internet. Some of them get ideas from another project they saw at a science fair, and they just take the idea and base their own project around it. Sometimes parents will suggest a question; sometimes if I come up with something, I’ll throw it out to the whole class and one of them might pick up on it and say, ‘Yeah, that sounds interesting; I’ll do it.’”

The winning projects all have something in common, Mrs. Sega said.

“The kids who won prizes put a lot of work into their projects.”

Knoxville-area Catholic school students accounted for numerous other honors in the science fair. Marcela Miller of Sacred Heart Cathedral School was an overall fourth-place medalist, earning $50. Alexandra Z. Peterson of St. John Neumann School in Farragut and Jacqueline Morgan Zuraf of St. Mary School each won a fifth-place medal and $30. All three students also received a Certificate of Excellence and a $25 prize.

Others winning a Certificate of Excellence were Daniel Mountain, Stephanie Marie Romanoski, Elena Jane Martin, Shannon Erica Rearden, Sierra Nicole Mushett, Andrea N. Wilkerson, Natalia Krystine Sychtysz, Olivia Rachel Milloway, Charlotte A. Daigle, and Mary Angela Miller of St. Mary School; Thomas Kollie and Jake Timothy Renfree of St. John Neumann; Nicholas Martin and Anna Ward of Sacred Heart; and Sophia Grace Wilson of St. Joseph School in Knoxville.

Winners of locally sponsored special awards at the science fair included Grace Elizabeth Santodonato of St. Mary, who received a $50 prize and certificate from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The Smoky Mountain chapter of the American Meteorological Society awarded $100 and a plaque to Walker Smith of Sacred Heart and the same prizes to Jacqueline Zuraf of St. Mary.

The Association of Women in Science, University of Tennessee at Knoxville chapter, awarded $25 to Sophia Wilson of St. Joseph. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at UT presented a $200 award both to Jacqueline Zuraf and Mrs. Sega of St. Mary.

The East Tennessee section of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers awarded $50 each to Katherine E. Wade of St. Joseph and Natalia Sychtysz of St. Mary. The Knoxville Gem and Mineral Society awarded first-place prizes to Anna Ward of Sacred Heart.

The Science Application International Corp. presented a plaque and $75 award to Meredith Olivia Allen of St. Mary. Samantha Peck of St. John Neumann received a Sigma Xi award, and Laura Daffron of St. John Neumann won a $50 award from the Society for Women Engineers, Smoky Mountain section. Walker Smith of Sacred Heart received $50 and a certificate from the Tennessee Science Teachers Association.

Nationally sponsored awards went to Natalia Sychtysz of St. Mary from the American Meteorological Society, Elena Martin of St. Mary from the American Psychological Association, Sophia Wilson of St. Joseph from the Association for Women Geoscientists, Shannon Rearden of St. Mary from Mu Alpha Theta, Sierra Mushett of St. Mary from the U.S. Air Force, Olivia Milloway of St. Mary from the U.S. Public Health Service, and Thomas Stucke of Sacred Heart from the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research.

Honorable-mention winners at the science fair were Nathan Michael Kidder, Katherin Lynn Cacopardo, Erin Marika Van Berkel, John Paul Kaffer, Garrett Thomas Mesmer, Meredith Allen, and Madelyn Rose Fahhoum of St. Mary; Haley Cionfolo, Margaret M. Keener, and Laura Daffron of St. John Neumann; Libby Smith, Mary Grace Coakley, Walker Smith, Natalie Eilerman, and Thomas Stucke of Sacred Heart; and Ashlyn Man, Breanna Jeffries, Mary Katherine Kidwell, and Jason Houbre of St. Joseph.

Other teachers of winning students were Amy Gilliland at Sacred Heart, Rosemary Calvert at St. Joseph, and Pam Preskenis and Brett Shaffer at St. John Neumann.