Island Middle School Students Shine in D.C.

Robert Heckman by Robin Barrett/BroadcomTwo middle school students from Kailua and Hilo represented the Aloha State in a national science competition earlier this week. Winners and finalists in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade from across the country attended at a black-tie gala at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C on Tuesday.

Robert Heckman, a 14-year-old Kailua Intermediate School student, took top honors in the “technology” category for his project, entitled, “Coral Tumors, Parrotfish Predation and Bacteria.” An avid snorkeler, Heckman won an iPad 2 and a STEM summer camp experience.

Meanwhile, Hilo Intermediate School student Jordan Kamimura, also 14, was named a finalist for his study to determine whether high-protein dry dog food is a more cost-effective food source than commercial-grade fish food for tilapia. Whether or not people would eat tilapia that were fed dog food was likely left for a future study.

The awards were dubbed the “MASTERS,” for Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars. Only in its first year, the competition received 1,476 entries submitted by students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Each student had been nominated by a local science fair.

Thirty finalists — 17 girls and 13 boys — flew to Washington D.C. to present their research projects, meet with members of Congress and compete in contests. The event was organized by the national nonprofit Society for Science & the Public, which also publishes Science News.

The top prize was a $25,000 education award, and it went to a California student for his research on tide pools. The second place winner won $10,000 for a robot built out of a Roomba vacuum that could help keep elderly relatives company. Other notable projects involved soap bubbles, Christmas tree lights, party balloons and buttercream icing.

All finalists received $500 and other prizes. Their schools will each receive $1,000, and their teachers will receive a $125 gift card.

Photo of Robert Heckman by Robin Barrett found on Flickr. All rights reserved, used by permission of Broadcom and the Society for Science & the Public.

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