Projects displayed at regional science fair

DeKALB – Young scientists tackled issues from diabetes to firefighting in science fair projects displayed Saturday as part of a regional competition at Northern Illinois University.

Northern Illinois Region 5 Junior Academy of Science Fair had 439 projects presented by seventh- through 12th-graders from 45 different schools in the region. The 1,000-seat Sandburg Auditorium was filled beyond capacity for the awards ceremony in the afternoon.

“Science education and [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education is growing a lot in Illinois,” said Judy Scheppler, Region 5 Science Fair Director. “There’s a real blossoming and blooming of student research, especially in the Northern part of the state.”

Theresa Do, 16, a Jacobs High School student from Carpentersville, is developing an artificial intelligence program for smart phones that will calculate a predictive glucose level for diabetics and give them a warning when they are approaching danger.

Do got the idea for her project when a friend’s relative lost his leg because of diabetes.

“I want to be able to know that I am helping people out there and benefiting society and advancing the human condition,” she said.

Ranjani Sundar, a 16-year-old Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy junior from Naperville, studied the effects of plasticizers on the female reproductive system. She worked in an obstetrics and gynecology lab at Northwestern University and found that the supposedly safer non-BPA alternatives have the same negative effects as the chemicals they’re
replacing.

Ranjani, whose mother works for the EPA and encouraged her research, talked about the value of science fairs to young people like herself.

“[They] give students who have a vision to change a problem they see in the world a way to get their information out there so they can really make an impact and gain more confidence and feedback,” she said.

Many of the students’ projects were inspired by situations in their homes. 

Katie Moore, 14, studied the energy efficiency of different biofuels. She’s an eighth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove who would like to do medical research in the future.

“My family got a car that ran on biodiesel fuels, so I figured maybe I could make a fuel that could run in that car, and I did,” Moore said. “I had fun doing it and it was a good learning experience.”

More than 100 students from Saturday’s Regional Science fair will advance to the State Science fair on May 3 at NIU. NIU is hosting the state fair this year, because the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois’ campus in Champaign is being remodeled.