School board celebrates students’ science success

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By Carol A. Clark

Showered with pride and appreciation, this year’s New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair winners were the toast of Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The young scholars enjoyed an ice cream smorgasbord before assembling in the district’s boardroom for a recognition ceremony where they were cheered by parents, teachers and administrators.

“You are all incredible students and we’re very proud of each of you,” President Joan Ahlers told the group of elementary, middle and high school students.

Superintendent Mary McLeod and Board Secretary Kenneth Johnson stood at the head of the room greeting each recipient and presenting them with certificates, handshakes and hearty congratulations.

Handshakes continued around the room as board members and administrators stood up to honor each recipient for their accomplishments.

“I wish our superintendent candidates were here to hear all this,” said board member Jody Benson following project presentations by two students.

Los Alamos Middle School seventh-grader Alexandra Hehlen, 12, briefed the packed boardroom on her “Clear as Mud?” project, which earned first place in regional, first in state and second in county.

“My project showed different pocket densities of different sand grains and that they all range about the same percentage of packing densities, no matter the size,” Hehlen said.

For his project, “Rocky Planet Formation as the Universe Evolves,” Aspen sixth- grader Devon Conradson, 12, earned a second place regional award. Conradson explained that scientists are finding star formations less and less frequent as the universe ages.

Piñon sixth-grader Alexandr Wang, 12, discussed his project, “The Heart of the Fractal,” before the ceremony. “It shows that the dimension of a fractal is dependent on the turn angle in the program,” Wang said. “It also shows that if you raise the equation of a Mandelbrot set to an order of N, it splits into N-1 parts.”

Wang’s project earned a regional first place, a first at state and a second at county.

Los Alamos High School senior Caroline Wurden, 17, earned the highest award given by New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair — best in show in physics and astronomy for her project, “Determining the Orbital Elements of Minor Planets 23265.”

“I calculated the orbit of my Asteroid using Gauss’s Method,” Wurden explained before the ceremony.

She also mentioned excitedly, “I’m going to Berkley.”

LAHS sophomore, Alexander Kendrick, 16, earned the highest award, best in show in the physical sciences division, for “The Underground Radio II.”

“I designed circuits and determined the optimal frequency to allow digital communication through 300 meters through limestone rock for underground communications,” he said. “I successfully tested the radio I designed in Carlsbad Caverns for 650 feet, which was the deepest and first digital communication ever established in Carlsbad Cavern Park history.”

Their stellar accomplishments earn Kendrick and Wurden all-expense paid trips to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno, Nev., where they intend to compete May 10-17.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.