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Yewon Lee, at left, and Neha Singhal, who are students at James Clemens High School, earned honors at the Alabama State Science and Engineering Fair. CONTRIBUTED

James Clemens students show science proclivity at state meet

MADISON – James Clemens High School students left no doubt about their technical knowledge at the Alabama State Science and Engineering Fair.

A panel of 40 distinguished scientists and engineers judged each category virtually with Zoom on April 10. These experts included professors, post-doctoral educators and graduate students from colleges, including the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Auburn University and University of South Alabama.

The state fair attracted 127 students from 41 schools. Sixty-plus students competed in the high school division.Requirements for students included a poster presentation, oral defense of the research and writing a detailed research paper.

In the Engineering, Computer Science and Math category, freshman Madhushalini Balaji claimed first place and “Best of Fair” Award. The top four projects from all categories in the senior division earn Best Of Fair; these students qualify as finalists for the International Science and Engineering Fair with an all-expenses paid trip.

Balaji developed the project, “A Low-Cost Approach to EEG-Based Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Using Brain-Computer Interface.” Balaji developed a prosthetic arm using an alternate communication pathway to enable movement in amputees.

“A brain-computer interface was established, providing the opportunity for the control of external devices using EEG signals,” Balaji said. “The project’s main objectives included lowering cost of prosthetic arms, using noninvasive technology and analyzing the effectiveness of motor imagery.”

In Biochemistry, Chemistry and Materials Science, Yewon Lee earned second place. Her project’s name was “Application of Bayesian Inference for the Deconvolution of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectra to Assess Metabolic Alterations and Type I Diabetes Susceptibility.”

“My project was on using a computational approach through a Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm and Bayesian statistics applied to spectral data find correlations between metabolic reaction cycles, disease progression and predisposed genetic factors,” Lee said.

For the Cellular & Molecular Biology entries, Shreya Sunil earned second place.

Neha Singhal received Honorable Mention in the Medicine and Health category. Project’s name was “Scalable Track, Trace and Isolate Solution for Pandemic Contagion and Risk Management.” “In my project, I have prototyped a wearable ‘Internet of Things’ device that provides means for contagion management by identifying infectious points, monitoring symptoms and notifying the consumer of exposure,” Singhal said.

Leah McRae sponsors the James Clemens Science Fair and assists students who advance to regional and state contests.

To qualify for the state fair, students must have competed regionally, which for James Clemens means the North Alabama Science & Engineering Fair. Lee and Singhal received “Best of Fair” and will represent James Clemens in the International Science & Engineering Fair. Approximately 1,500 students will participate in the international contest.

State-level projects usually involve scientific questions and a specific topic that interest students. “Participants must research their question, learn and apply the scientific method to create a valid experiment and think about the meaning of their results,” McRae said.

“Through science fairs, students get the opportunity to meet peers interested in STEM and learn about innovative, cutting-edge work from a student’s perspective,” McRae said. “We also can receive feedback from scientists and engineers in the field that will help improve future research practices.”

“Students benefit from participating at state because it gives them a chance to express their ideas, and it motivates them to pursue a STEM career,” McRae said.

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