High school students show off science know-how at Science and Innovation Fair


PITTSFIELD -- To test her hypothesis in a science project, Taconic High School sophomore Zoia Zahid had to dig for answers.

Her question -- which also was the title of her science project -- was one common among residents and environmentalists alike: "Are the EPA Cleaned PCB Contamination Sites In Pittsfield Really Clean?"

Zahid focused her research on the site of Allendale Elementary School, where she went to dig through the snow to collect soil samples from the top two inches of earth around the school. Using a test kit she bought, she found the levels of polychlorinated biphenyls in the soil to be safe.

Zahid's was one of more than 80 science projects exhibited on Thursday at the Berkshire Museum during the third annual Science and Innovation Fair, presented in collaboration with SABIC Innovative Plastics and Pittsfield Public Schools.

"What I learned from my project is that we use chemicals every single day in our lives, but we need to know how to use them properly, how to dispose of them and how to handle them better," Zahid said.

Approximately 170 high school students from Taconic High School's Science and Engineering Academy and Pittsfield High School's Quark Science Club developed and presented projects to a range of visitors including the city's fifth-grade students and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.

A public viewing and judging periods were held between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Afterward, awards ceremonies were held for each school with presentations by Kristen Pearson, science fair coordinator at Taconic High School; Scott Eldridge, science fair coordinator at Pittsfield High School; Brenda Manarchik, science fair volunteer coordinator for SABIC; and Van W. Shields, executive director of Berkshire Museum.

Projects stemmed from the scientific fields of behavioral science, biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental science and physics. Many of the projects sought to answer questions and find solutions to issues in the students' own lives.

Taconic senior Austin O'Neil, a captain for the Braves hockey team, set out to determine the ultimate shot around a goalie. To do so, he used a hockey dummy, real-life players, and classmates to test difference theories. Last year, he developed a project that involved a new system for tracking football statistics.

"I like having to choose our own topics. Next year, I'm planning on going into sports management and this helps me to build my statistics skills," O'Neil said.

Pittsfield High School sophomore Samantha Clark said she was initially stumped about what to study for her science project and fair debut.

"There are so many things in the world, but I wanted to come up with an invention," she said.

Clark ultimately combined two of her cosmetic loves -- wearing necklaces and perfume -- into a product called Silver Scents. She re-fashioned a plastic grape (the kind found in a decorative fruit bowl) into a pendant and used it as a reservoir that could hold liquid perfume, giving the user a pleasant daylong scent without having to carry a bottle around.

"One guy even asked me if he could buy one as a Valentine's gift for his wife," the student said.

Sophomores Miesha Wade, Alyson Berry and Rachel Ndiembolo, also new to the fair, said they experienced some trials and frustrations while working as a group to explore the "Environmental Tolerance of Artemia salina (aka brine shrimp or sea monkeys) to Low-pH Ocean Water."

"But it's good for your confidence," said Ndiembolo.

"And it feels good afterward to show off all the work you put into it," Wade said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink


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