Area high school students excelled at the Brevard Mainland Regional Science & Engineering Fair held Feb. 1 and 2 at Merritt Square Mall on Merritt Island.
The fair featured 275 students, according to spokesperson Loren Kingsley. Those students, who represented a host of middle and high schools in the area, competed for place awards in different categories and were eligible to receive special awards that even included scholarship money in some cases.
"We have 13 first-place winners at the junior level, which is middle school. And also 13 first-place winners at the senior level, which is high school, that all go on to state. So, 26 projects will go to state (the State Science & Engineering Fair held in March in Lakeland) from here. And then, our senior level Best of Show in the physical sciences and Best of Show in the biological sciences. So, that’s two projects (that) will automatically go on to international (the International Science & Engineering Fair held in May in Phoenix).
Viera High School had an impressive showing as all 15 students who entered the fair with projects earned at least third-place awards. Additionally, VHS students took home first-place awards in six categories, giving them the most of any school in the senior category at the fair, which consists of students in grades nine through 12.
Among those who represented VHS was Tyler Audino, who earned runner-up Best of Show honors in the biological category and earned first-place in Sr. Biomedical & Health Sciences for his project entitled "Hormone Replacement Therapy — Year 2."
"I started off because my Grandpa got diagnosed with cancer and I really wanted to focus on helping prevent cancer or treat cancer, something like that," said Audino, who as a freshman said he’d like to continue his work on the project.
Also earning a first-place award was Viera High’s Jillian Smith, also a freshman, who took the top spot in Sr. Plant Sciences entitled "Can the Indian River Lagoon Muck be Mixed Evenly with the Soil and Fertilizer in Order to Support Plant Life?"
"I just saw that algae (in the Indian River Lagoon) was one of the issues, one of the very big issues that we’re having like red tide and I thought, OK, what can I do?," Smith said.
Other VHS students receiving first-place awards were Jada Jones, Esther Francom, Chloe "Cato" Emerson and the team combination of David Allaire and Brandon Albert. VHS students receiving second-place awards were Siddarth Ranganath, Chase Tarrillo, Marleigh Peters, Tristan Hera and Colin Avento. Dax Haskett, Mason Harris and Alyssa Buccieri each received third-place awards.
Viera High School science research teacher Elizabeth Youngs credited the work ethic of her students when discussing their success at the fair.
"If a student comes into research and isn’t self-motivated, they’re not going to do well. It’s not my project," Youngs said. "They have to own their project. They have to be enthusiastic about it and for some reason it all falls together."
Viera High School wasn’t the only area school that had students earn awards. Viera Charter School’s Riley and Reese Renfro took second-place in Jr. Behavioral Sciences. Beyond that, Alexa Adams received a third-place award in Jr. Physics & Astronomy and Jason Lee took home a fourth-place award in Jr. Chemistry.