High School Researchers Vie for Scholarships in Siemens Math, Science, Tech Competition

The topics sound like they came straight from university research labs: "Adsorption of Sulfamethazine from Environmentally Relevant Aqueous Matrices onto Hypercrosslinked Adsorbent MN250"; and "Natural, Cost-Effective Anodes for Optimized Sediment Microbial Fuel Cells: Engineering a Novel Approach to Harvesting Energy and Cleaning Up Oil-Polluted Regions." But these research topics were undertaken by high schoolers vying for scholarship dollars in last year's Siemens Competition, an annual event that promotes research in science, math and technology.

This year's event is coming up on a crucial deadline: All individual and student teams need to have their research reports and related materials turned in by Sept. 20. By Oct. 18, semi-finalists will be chosen to start on the subsequent phase - creating a digital poster and slide presentation.

The national competition will take place at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in early December. Although winners at the regional levels win scholarships, the two top winners will garner $100,000 toward college expenses — one as an individual and the other as a team, whose members will split the award.

The potential research undertaken by the students covers a broad number of categories, from astrophysics to toxicology; and they're expected to follow the same kinds of guidelines as university researchers, such as commitment to academic integrity and adherence to human and animal protection policies.

Contenders are also encouraged to seek out professionals for mentoring through Million Women Mentors, US 2020 or similar organizations.

The first project referenced above was undertaken by Maria Elene Grimmett, a senior at the time at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in Florida. As Grimmett told the judges, "For me, science has always been about the excitement of discovering something new." Her project came up with a new way to remove sulfamethazine, a veterinary antibiotic used with livestock, from water before it enters the "human food chain." The research began years before when she undertook to understand why the water in her family's own well was brown. That initial science project led her to participate in a science fair where she saw another student's project describing pharmaceutical drug contamination of the Florida Everglades, which inspired her later work. Her mentor for the winning entry was Hui Li, an associate professor of environmental and soil chemistry at Michigan State University.

The second project was a team effort by Kimberly Te and Christine Woo, both seniors at Manhasset High in New York. The team created a device to help clean up oil pollution and reuse the waste oil collected to power remote sensors. Their mentors were educators Alison Huenger and Peter Guastella from their own school.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.