Blazers win awards at Montgomery Science Fair

March 23, 2010, 7:20 p.m. | By Lauren Kestner | 13 years, 8 months ago

Two seniors advance to international competition

Seniors Jacob Hurwitz and Jennifer Wang took first place in the senior division of the Montgomery County Science Fair held March 19 - 21 at the University of Maryland, College Park. Judges awarded Hurwitz and Wang with $450 each in prize money and an expense-paid trip to San Jose, Calif. to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) May 9 - 14.

Senior Jacob Hurwitz took first place in the senior division of the Montgomery County Science Fair.  Photo courtesy of Hurwitz.

Science Montgomery, a local ISEF-affiliated organization, awarded 12 Blair students between $50 and $200 for their achievements in 12 separate research categories, according to its web site. Hurwitz explained that the first-place finishers in each category are evaluated to select those who will advance to the May competition. "You're first judged by a panel of judges knowledgeable about your category who score all projects in the category," he said. "Then, a special set of judges visits the first-place project in each of the 12 categories to determine the top projects overall."

Hurwitz, Wang and senior Jeremy Fallick took first place in the mathematics, physics and computer science categories respectively. Wang and partner Grace Young, a student at the Potomac School, will present their project "Validation of Parabolic Ion Trap Geometries for Application within Quantum Computing" at the May competition along with Hurwitz, who designed a project called "Decycling Densities of Tessellations." Fallick was recognized as a second runner-up for the Intel competition and received $300 in prize money for his research project, "Development of a Computational Model for Ancient Western Warfare."

Hurwitz was ecstatic when officials announced that his mathematics project would be judged at the May competition. "I honestly didn't expect to win," he said. "When they called my name at the Sunday awards ceremony, I was paralyzed in shock for a brief moment."

Wang and Hurwitz are two of 1,500 students selected from ISEF-affiliated regional fairs around the country to compete for nearly $4 million in prize money at the Intel ISEF, according to the Society for Science and the Public web site. The top three winners will receive the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and $50,000 in prize money; best of category winners are granted $5,000 scholarships.

Senior Yifan Li, a finalist in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search, presents his project at the culminating poster session of the competition.  Photo courtesy of Li.

Hurwitz's win at the Montgomery Science Fair was the culmination of a four-week summer research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Research Science Institute (RSI). "I met with my graduate student mentor for an hour a day to discuss my research, and then I spent the other 23 hours working on my own," he said. "During the last week of RSI, I wrote a paper detailing my research, and then I made my poster for the science fair once I returned home."

Mentor Nan Li, tutor John Rickert, former Magnet Research Coordinator Susan Ragan and Magnet teacher Elizabeth Duval helped Hurwitz develop his graph theory project. "Basically, I was looking at what fraction of the vertices you have to remove to get rid of all cycles in an infinite graph," he said.

Hurwitz plans to spend the upcoming weeks rewriting his research plan, perfecting his poster board and refining his oral presentation in preparation for the Intel ISEF. "Previous Montgomery County ISEF participants are spending a lot of time trying to help me prepare," he said. "I just hope to do the best that I can. It'll be great if I can win some more money from my project, but even if I don't, I know that I'll have a blast."

Although it is unlikely he will compete with Hurwitz and Wang at the ISEF, Fallick was thrilled with his performance at the Montgomery Science Fair. "I wasn't really expecting to get more than third at the highest, so I was overjoyed!" he said. "Learning that I was a runner-up for ISEF even further exceeded my expectations and made a great day even better."

Oxford University Professor Daniel Robinson and University of Maryland Professor Ashok Agrawala helped Fallick design a computer program to predict the outcomes of ancient Western battles for two and a half months over the summer. "The project consisted of researching the historical battles I used, writing the code, calibrating the model and testing the model," he said. "It predicted 90.9 percent of the battles I tested it on correctly."

Many Blazers won special awards from individual organizations or companies as well as prizes in the respective science fair categories. The results for all Blair students are below:

ISEF Awards in the Senior Division

First place
Jennifer Wang and Grace Young - "Validation Of Parabolic Ion Trap Geometries For Application Within Quantum Computing"
Jacob Hurwitz - "Decycling Densities Of Tessellations"
Second runner-up
Jeremy Fallick - "Development Of A Computational Model For Ancient Western Warfare"

Category Winners in the Senior Division

Behavioral and Social Sciences
Angela Choi and Dzi Do - Honorable Mention

Xinyi Zhou - Second Place

Yifan Li - Second Place
Sophia Deng - Second Place
Hongyi Xia - Third Place
Allison Arai - Third Place
Melissa Truong - Honorable Mention

Computer Science
Jeremy Fallick - First Place
Victoria Lai - Honorable Mention

Lindsey Fernandez - Honorable Mention

Jacob Hurwitz - First Place
Anand Oza, Rohan Puttagunta and Nils Molina - Second Place

Medicine and Health
Conway Xu - Second Place
Melodi Anahtar - Honorable Mention

Jennifer Wang - First Place
Kamal Ndousse - Second Place
Justin Yu - Honorable Mention

Community Awards

American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) First Place: Melodi Anahtar; Second Place: Melissa Truong
American Nuclear Society Fifth Place: Justin Yu
American Psychological Association Angela Choi and Dzi Do
American Society of Mechanical Engineers Second Place: Lindsey Fernandez
American Society of Naval Engineers Jennifer Wang
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Melissa Truong, Hongyi Xia, Conway Xu
Graduate Women in Science Melodi Anahtar, Melissa Truong, Allison Arai
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Second Place: Jennifer Wang
MIT Club of Washington, D.C. First Place: Jennifer Wang
MedImmune Advancing Science for Better Health Award First Place: Shilpa Kannan
Mu Alpha Theta Anand Oza, Rohan Puttagunta, Nils Molina, Jacob Hurwitz
National Space Club Jennifer Wang
Office of Naval Research Jennifer Wang, Kamal Ndousse, Lindsey Fernandez
Optical Society of America Lindsey Fernandez
Sigma Xi, FDA Chapter Second Place: Hongyi Xia
Society for In Vitro Biology Shilpa Kannan
U.S. Airforce Jacob Hurwitz, Jeremy Fallick, Victoria Lai
U.S. Army - Research Office Honorable Mention: Xinyi Zhou, Yifan Li, Sophia Deng, Jeremy Fallick, Victoria Lai, Lindsey Fernandez, Conway Xu; Certificate of Achievement: Jacob Hurwitz, Jennifer Wang; First Place: Kamal Ndousse
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Honorable Mention: Victoria Lai, Justin Yu; First Place: Jacob Hurwitz
U.S. Public Health Service Meritorious Achievement: Sophia Deng, Melissa Truong, Allison Arai, Victoria Lai, Shilpa Kannan, Kamal Ndousse; Third Place: Yifan Li

Editor's note: Jennifer Wang is a technical editor and Sophia Deng is a managing editor for Silver Chips Online.

Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much … More »

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