Maine Students Succeed at ISEF

The top three projects in the Maine State Science Fair each year advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. This year’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) was held in Pittsburgh May 10–15. All three Maine projects were awarded prizes in the international competition that included over 1,700 finalists from 78 countries.

Demetri Maxim, a junior at Gould Academy who lives in Bethel, ME and Lexington, MA, took first place at the 2015 MSSF. At ISEF, he achieved recognition as best in the category Cellular and Molecular Biology. His prizes include a $5,000 scholarship, $3,000 cash prize,  an award from the American Physiological Society, the Intel Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Award that includes a trip to India, and $1,000 grants to Gould Academy and to the Maine State Science Fair. The Portland Press Herald featured Demetri in an article here.

Demetri developed a method to derive kidney cells from human stem cells, including formation of nephron structures using a three-dimensional mouse kidney scaffold. He also participated in the 2014 Maine State Science Fair, winning with a project that tested a novel method for testing blood of organ transplant recipients for early signs of rejection.

Paige Brown, a junior at Bangor High School, took water samples from six Bangor streams that have been identified by Maine DEP as “impaired.” She tested the samples for phosphorus and E. coli in addition to some other parameters including pH, conductivity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen content. She then identified potential sites of point-source pollution. For this work, for which she took second place at the Maine State Science Fair, she was awarded one of eight full-tuition scholarships (worth up to $150,000) to Drexel University and received a 4th award in the category Earth and Environmental Sciences at ISEF.

Ben Schade and Justin Hamilton, who attend the Maine School of Science and Mathematics (and are from Phippsburg and Woolwich, respectively), built on their third-place finish at the state level to earn a Distinguished Achievement award of $3,000 from the Association of Exploration Geophysicists at ISEF. Building on their previous work with search-and-rescue robots, Ben and Justin designed a computer algorithm that can help an autonomous robot navigate obstacles using on-board mapping data instead of multiple (and computationally cumbersome) sensors.

The 2015 Maine State Science Fair was co-led by The Jackson Laboratory and Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. The Jackson Laboratory took over leadership of the state fair in 2012. Since 2012, winners of the Maine State Science Fair have been eligible to qualify for the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest science fair, with the top three winners and their mentors traveling to the event.

“We’re so proud of the four students who represented Maine at ISEF,” said Stefany Burrell, STEM outreach specialist at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, who traveled to Pittsburgh with the students and their mentors. “They asked questions that were important to them, put a lot of hard work into these amazing projects, and earned these accolades. Our young Maine scientists can achieve so much.”

The Jackson Laboratory also announced the great news.

“This is the best showing to date of Maine students at this prestigious international event,” says Michael McKernan, Jackson Laboratory program director for STEM and undergraduate education, who also traveled to Pittsburgh with the students and their mentors. “It demonstrates how our Maine students can compete at the highest level when their schools encourage excellence in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance supports K-16 science, technology, engineering, and math education, inside and outside of school, through excellent professional development, grant-funded projects, policy support, and direct work with teachers, students, and community members. The Jackson Laboratory offers educational programs for scientists throughout their careers—from high school students and teachers to experienced researchers defining the cutting edge of genomics research and physicians interested in incorporating genetics and genomics into their practices. Both are nonprofit organizations.

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