Central Arkansas high school students win big at international science, engineering fair

Little Rock students compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, PA on May 13-18, 2018.

Little Rock high school students who took top prizes at the Central Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair held earlier this year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock recently advanced to the international competition where two students won big awards.

Six Central Arkansas students competed at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 13-18. They are:

  • Mohammed Abuleum, Pulaski Academy
  • Anusha Bhattacharyya, Little Rock Central High School (ISEF qualifier at State Science and Engineering Fair)
  • Meghana Bollimpalli, Little Rock Central High School
  • Sanjana Padala, Little Rock Central High School
  • Hetvi Shah, Little Rock Central High School
  • Chengyue “Oscar” She, Little Rock Central High School

Meghana Bollimpalli, 17, of Little Rock, received one of two $50,000 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards for her novel, low-cost approach for synthesizing materials that could greatly cut the production and energy costs of making electrodes for devices like supercapacitors. She found that combining common substances like tea and molasses with nitrogen and phosphorus in a commercial microwave formed a powder that could be used as a coating for electrode-like materials, giving them similar properties of more expensive metals like platinum. She also took home an $8,000 first-place prize in the chemistry category. She is the first top awardee from Arkansas since 1996.

Anusha Bhattacharyya won a scholarship to Arizona State University and a third place $1,000 award in the Earth and Environmental Science category for her research to find a suitable adsorbent using naturally abundant environmentally benign materials to remove nitrophenols from water in an efficient, inexpensive, and sustainable way.

“We are certainly proud of how well our local students fared in the international competition and how advanced their projects and research were, but that is the nature of STEM disciplines,” said Keith Harris, director of the Central Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair and a science instructional facilitator in UA Little Rock’s STEM Education Center. “These are highly competitive fields, and CARSEF recognizes these emerging scientists whose projects exemplify high degrees of difficulty, thoroughness, complexity, creativity, innovation and effective communication.”

The Central Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair  is one of several academic competitions for middle and high school students organized yearly by the UA Little Rock STEM Education Center to promote STEM as career options. UA Little Rock has hosted the regional fair continuously since 2011.

“Our hope is to give more K-12 students access to and encourage participation in these programs to see what STEM careers are all about, all while increasing support of these programs from the campus and community,” Harris said.

This year, about 450 students in grades 4-12 competed in the central Arkansas regional fair. Top winners earned the right to advance to the international fair where they faced competition from nearly 1,800 participants from 75 countries, regions, and territories.

The 2019 Central Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair will take place on March 1, 2019. For more information about programs offered, visit ualr.edu/stemcenter

Top right photo: Sanjana Padala, Anusha Bhattacharyya, Meghana Bollimpalli, Hetvi Shah, Mohammed Abuelem (Pulaski Academy), Oscar She attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Penn., on May 13-18, 2018. Photo by Patrick Foley, Little Rock Central High School

 

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