East Ridge students come in first place at eCybermission science fair

For the fifth straight year, eighth graders from East Ridge Middle School earned top recognition at the state eCYBERMISSION science fair competition.

Team Dock — comprised of Kenneth Choi, Andrew Dong, Tommy Keaveny, and Jake O'Brien — was mentored by eighth grade science teacher Deborah Sullivan, and won first place in the state. Each member will receive a $1,000 United States savings bond.  

Team Science Loving Students — comprised of Ava De Palo, Alyssa DeStefano, and Ella Kagan — was mentored by eighth grade science teacher Tiffany Antkies, and won second place in the state. Each member will receive a $500 United States savings bond.  

Team Flock of Birds — featuring Megan Dunphy, Makena Davi, Annika Bonwetsch, and Michaela Kane — was also mentored by Deborah Sullivan, and received Honorable Mention.

The science fair, which is sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program, is an online national STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competition. 

It challenges students in sixth through ninth grade to identify real-world problems in their local communities and to use either the scientific method or the engineering design process to develop creative solutions to the problem.  

It promotes self-discovery and enables students to recognize the real-life applications of STEM.

“eCYBERMISSION not only encourages students to be both creative and scientific, but also requires them to think critically while developing innovative solutions to some of their communities most challenging issues,” explains Dr. Mary Gromko, President of the National Science Teachers Association.  “We congratulate the state winners and commend all of the team advisors for engaging and empowering their students to make a real difference in the world around them.”

Team DOCK recognized the fact that although bees are key in natural pollination of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, bee populations are constantly declining because farmers use pesticides that are extremely toxic to bees.  They found that these chemicals cause a bee death chain reaction, known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  

To solve this major problem, the team used all aspects of the Engineering Design Process to create a bee-friendly pesticide prototype.  After mixing chemicals together to make one chemical pesticide mixture, they tested the pesticide on two gardenias for one week.  With more research and experimentation, the group believes bees can saved.  Throughout the time period, every group member gained immense experience in teamwork and planning ahead.  Ultimately, the group successfully created a bee-friendly product that will not only help bees thrive, but will also increase food production and contribute to the thriving of the international economy.

Team Science Loving Students identified that concussions are a major problem in Ridgefield, CT because they have the potential to cause Traumatic Brain Injury and as a result, parents are not allowing their children to play contact sports.  Team Science Loving Students’ main goal was to solve this problem so that their peers would be able to continue to pursue their passions and safely play the sports they love.  They were especially concerned about the amount, severity, and long term effects of concussions on the developing brain of adolescents.  

To solve this problem they researched shock absorbent materials.  Then, they used the engineering design process to create a model of a lightweight, breathable insert that could fit inside a football helmet and tested it by using model magic to represent the insert.  They wrapped the model magic around a mini basketball, and dropped it from 2 meters.  The less it bounced, the smaller the impact the hit had on “the brain.”  Their next step is to use a 3-D printer to print out architected lattice, which is a representation of the membrane of the brain, and conduct further tests to see if it will further reduce the impact. Team Science Loving students would like to thank engineer and local resident Jason Gartner for his help with this project.

“I am so proud of everyone,” said Antkies.  “These projects were an excellent way for the students to challenge themselves in the STEM field and work together to better the community.”

“Before this project, our group had not known what STEM could be useful for,” Kenneth expresses on behalf of his team.  “Thanks to this experience, we have all discovered how a simple idea can benefit the community and inspire future inventors.”