Valparaiso University hosted the 66th annual Northwestern Indiana Science and Engineering Regional Fair on Feb. 23 in the Harre Union Ballrooms. Now, up to 20 student finalists are moving on to compete at the state fair, which will be held this year at “The Center” (Heritage Research Group Corporation Facility) in Indianapolis on March 30.

Amanda Szentesy of ArcelorMittal gives Senior Award (sponsored by ArcelorMittal) to Munster High School student Shreyas Iyer. Also pictured is Fair Director & Associate Professor of Chemistry Professor Robert Clark.
Amanda Szentesy of ArcelorMittal gives Senior Award (sponsored by ArcelorMittal) to Munster High School student Shreyas Iyer. Also pictured is Fair Director & Associate Professor of Chemistry Professor Robert Clark.

This year, there were 101 students showing 78 projects in grades 6–12 from schools in Porter, Lake, LaPorte, and Jasper counties who participated and competed for many prestigious awards and cash prizes, including scholarships to the University.

The top winners of the 2019 fair were:

  • Shreyas Iyer from Munster High School presenting: “Impact of Targeting Defect Introduction in Metal-Organic Frameworks on Catalytic Behavior.”
  • Joseph Henning, Wyatt Hooper, Ben Swihart from New Prairie High School presenting: “SAVIUTS.”
  • Dominic Forrester from Saint John Evangelist School presenting: “Evaluation of the Efficacy of Antimicrobial Gloves against Bacteria.”
  • Madison Gresham from Barker Middle School presenting: “Making Music with Bottles.”

These top winners, as well as the second- and third-place winners in the senior division and the second-place winners in the junior division, will automatically go on to compete at the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair on March 30.

ArcelorMittal, a fifth-year platinum title sponsor, generously donated funds to cover operating expenses and award money for the regional fair, plus travel expenses to Indianapolis for the 20 state finalists. In addition, many of ArcelorMittal employees signed up as volunteer judges. One of the volunteer judges, Bill Masson, who is a purchasing manager from ArcelorMittal, was moved by the presenters. “These are youngsters just starting their academic careers, and it really is impressive to see these young minds at work trying to formulate a sense of what evidence-based learning is,” said Bill. “It’s a really energizing experience to both judge the competition and be around these young people who are defending, in a scientific sense, what they’re doing and what they’ve learned.”

Another judge from ArcelorMittal, Amanda Szentesy, who is a chemist and a 2003 alumna of Valparaiso University, reminisced about her own experiences with the science fair. “About 25 years ago I participated in this very fair,” she recalled. “I think it’s really interesting this year. There are quite a few experiments that really tackle current issues, rather than the classic science fair exhibits. They’re taking on social and environmental issues with their very bright minds. It’s so exciting getting to talk to these young scientists.”

Several other local businesses from Northwest Indiana also made significant contributions to support the fair. These include Kuraray (MonoSol), Thermco Instrument Corporation, Hoosier Travel, and BuyCoolPromotions. Also, the Ford family of Westfield, Indiana continue to sponsor the Outstanding STEM Award and the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) Award presented by Commander Alan R. Ford, U.S. Navy, Ret, and his son Sgt. David Ford, U.S. Air Force.

The Northwestern Indiana Science and Engineering Fair is an annual regional fair hosted by Valparaiso University. Many faculty, staff, and students volunteer annually serve as judges for this event while several science and science education students present science activities for fair participants throughout the day in the new state-of-the-art Center for the Sciences building.

For a complete award listing and more information on the regional fair, please visit www.valpo.edu/nwisef or contact the fair director, Robert Clark, at robert.clark@valp.edu or fair coordinator, Marcie Guzman, at marcie.guzman@valpo.edu.

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