University of South Carolina

Local Intel science fair competitors place in the top 5 worldwide

By Steven Powell,, 803-777-1923

Two local high school students, who were grand award winners at USC’s Science and Engineering Fair this spring, recently placed near the top in international competition with their science fair projects.

Benjamin Bartlett, a junior at Lexington High School, won fourth place in the world at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held May 13-18 in Pittsburgh, Pa., in the category of Physics and Astronomy. His project was titled "Unidirectionalization of Particulate Distributions in Isotropic D+D->He3+n Reactions Utilizing Differential Ion Velocities."

Additionally, Bartlett was one of 12 students awarded a trip to Switzerland, sponsored by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

“This is no small win—there were 1,542 projects from 68 countries at ISEF, and 82 projects in physics,” said Oscar Lopez, director of USC’s Science and Engineering Fair. “It’s worth noting that while the top three winners in physics were mentored by faculty from leading academic institutions, such as Stanford University, Ben won fourth place in the world by doing the work by himself at home.”

Kimberly McRae, a junior at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, placed third in the world in the category of Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering. She also won a second-place award from the Air Force Research Laboratory. Her project was titled "Layer-by-Layer Self-Assembly to Develop DNA-Based Biomaterial for Fuel Cell Application."

"Kimberly’s goal is to improve the efficiency of methanol fuel cells. She created a DNA-based biomaterial to be applied to the proton-conducting membrane separating the anode and cathode. She hypothesized that this biomaterial would be able to prevent leaks through the membrane, which will increase the efficiency of fuel cells," Lopez said.

"We are pleased that Midlands-area schools are producing this caliber of young scientists and engineers."

Both were grand award winners at USC’s 56th annual Science and Engineering Fair, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and Blue Cross Blue Shield. As a result, they went on to compete at ISEF. Three other students from the USC Fair were chosen to compete at ISEF: Chapin High School seniors Luke Finkernagel, Ryan Staub and Andrew McCall, winners of the team project award.

The Central South Carolina Region II Science and Engineering Fair, held at the Carolina Coliseum in March, featured projects from more than 600 students in grades 5-12 from more than 60 schools in Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland and Sumter counties.

"We're particularly thankful for the strong support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, our dean in the College of Arts and Sciences," Lopez said.

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Posted: 06/11/12 @ 10:30 AM | Updated: 06/11/12 @ 9:50 PM | Permalink