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HI STAR Participants Excel at District Science Fairs

Celeste Jongeneelen and her science fair project.

Celeste Jongeneelen and her science fair project. Photo courtesy Mary Kadooka.

Thirteen out of 14 students who participated in the IfA-sponsored 2013 HI STAR (Hawai‘i Student/Teacher Astronomy Research) week-long summer program at UH Mānoa completed projects and entered them in their respective district science fairs, a new record. Moreover, they won more awards at the district level than previous HI STAR classes. The goal of HI STAR is to have students conduct astronomy research projects, enter their projects in the science fair, and eventually major in science, engineering, or technology when they go to college. The students usually work with mentors who advise them on their projects during the school year. The mentors are often, but not always, IfA scientists.

At the Maui District Fair, Matthew Strum and Christopher Kim (grade 11, Maui High School) scored a first place win for their project that looked for gravity waves in the Sun. Like all first and second place winners in the Senior Research Division, they will take their project to the Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair in Honolulu and then to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college science competition, being held in Los Angeles this year.  

Also at the Maui fair, Celeste Jongeneelen  (grade 8, homeschooled) took the first place award in the Junior Research category for her project, “Disk-O Stars Part 2,” which built on last year’s project in which she found candidates for stars with disks. This year she tried to improve the method she used, and she plans to further improve it next year.

McKayla Wandell (grade 11, Baldwin), who studied the correlation between Earth’s weather history and Sun activity, received a certificate of achievement from the American Meteorological Society.

On O‘ahu, Zoey Fox, a tenth grader at Kaiser High School and a three-summer HI STAR participant, found a mentor in Canada, Gary Billings, who is a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, to assist her with her project. She investigated binary star systems for her project.

Stephanie Spear (grade 11, Kaiser) received a first place award in the Senior Research Division for her project about classifying asteroids based on their emission spectra and colors, which are believed to correspond to their surface composition. She was mentored by Marco Micheli, an IfA student who has since received his PhD and who wants to start a HI STAR-like program in his native Italy.

Leilani Gamboa (grade 9, St. Francis) competed in the Hawai‘i Independent Schools Science Fair with a project entitled, “Do Galaxies Evolve?” and qualified to go to the state fair.

On Kaua‘i, Kayla Ishida (grade 11,Waimea High School) won second place in the Senior Research Division for a project that focuses on determining if there is a correlation between solar flare strength, sunspot size, and sunspot magnetic properties.

Kelsey Barber, an ninth grader who came from Utah to participate in HI STAR, will be moving on to the state fair with her project entitled “Violating the Spin Barrier.”

Other 2013 HI STAR science fair participants include Gabriel Salazar (grade 12, Maui High School), Conor Leigh (grade 11, homeschooled), Mailani Neal (grade 11, Kamehameha School), and Cameron Chaffey (grade 10), who is participating in a science fair on the mainland.  

In addition, Christopher Lindsay, who took part in the 2012 HI STAR program, won first place in the Senior Research Division of the Hawaii Independent Schools Science Fair, and Sarah Jenkins, a 2010 HI STAR alumna, won second place in the Maui District Science Fair.