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LI students win at Intel international science fair

Ward Melville High School junior Leo Takemaru, left,

Ward Melville High School junior Leo Takemaru, left, and Half Hollow Hills High School West junior Poojan Pandya were among the best-of-category winners in this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Credit: Society for Science & the Public/Chris Ayers

Twenty-four Long Island students received awards at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, and three of them were "best-of-category" winners.

The fair, a program of the Society for Science & the Public, included about 1,800 high school students from 423 affiliate fairs in more than 80 countries, competing for more than $5 million in prizes.

Long Island's top-placing students were the team of Half Hollow Hills High School West junior Poojan Pandya and Ward Melville High School junior Leo Takemaru, who won best-of-category in Microbiology, and Lynbrook High School senior Kaylie Hausknecht, who won best-of-category in Physics and Astronomy.

"Winning best-of-category at ISEF is an amazing feeling for me, because it validates years of hard work and dedication to science," Pandya said. "But perhaps even more rewarding than the award is the thrill of creating new knowledge."

The fair's 22 best-of-category winners received $5,000 in addition to their $3,000 first-place awards and $1,000 grants to both their school and their affiliated fair.

Other Long Island award winners and their high schools were: Pragati Muthukumar and Ethan Sontarp, Commack; Danielle Kelly, Friends Academy; Arooba Ahmed, Rinni Bhansali, Jiachen Lee, Matthew Weltmann and Tong Ye, Half Hollow Hills East; Jillian Parker, Half Hollow Hills West; Carrie Hsu, Herricks; Arianna Pahlavan, Shruthi Shekar and Madhav Subramanian, Jericho; Samantha Chen and Serena Zhao, Manhasset; Jessica Goldstein and Audrey Shine, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK; Anthony D'Amore and Matthew Mullahy, Smithtown East; Yuktha Chiguripati, W. Tresper Clarke; and Kelsey Ge, Ward Melville.


Video winner

Lucas Kosmynka, a senior at Mattituck Jr./Sr. High School, won first place nationwide in a 2019 Video and Meme Contest titled "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Distracted."

Kosmynka's one-minute video, titled "Heads Up," features a father talking on his cellphone while driving with his son after they left a baseball field. The screen then goes black as the son tries to draw his dad's attention back to the road and cuts to the father playing catch with his son, who is shown in a wheelchair.

Kosmynka was awarded $5,000 and $500 for the charity of his choice.

The contest was coordinated by the nonprofit End Distracted Driving, the Lear Corporation and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).


Science Congress

Four Suffolk County students were among the top winners at the Long Island Science Congress, a poster-style competition held this year at St. Anthony's High School in Huntington Station. 

Sayville High School senior Alex Urmaza was a winner in the senior division for his project titled "Effects of Roundup on the respiration of Eisenia fetida." Shannon Alptekin, Sidney Padmanaban and Julia Savino of Smithtown High School West were winners in the senior division for their project titled "Effect of Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors on Nematostella vectensis peristalsis."

They all advanced to the state level earlier this month in Syracuse, but were not among the top winners.


Shakespeare Festival

Students from five Long Island schools won awards this spring in Hofstra University's 70th Annual Shakespeare Festival, during which they participated in drama and production workshops and performed classic scenes from William Shakespeare's plays.

Best Actor Awards went to Courtney Chamblin of Valley Stream Central High School, Nicole Fauci of Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, and Kayla Madden and Kyree Scott of Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School. Best Ensemble Awards went to Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway and to Wantagh High School.

The participants performed scenes from plays including "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," "Macbeth" and "The Taming of the Shrew."

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