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10 LI students named Siemens regional finalists

Brentwood High School senior Susell Contreras, 17, left,

Brentwood High School senior Susell Contreras, 17, left, and Sarah Adamo, 16, a junior at Smithtown High School West, were named regional finalists in The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. Here, the two sit in the Brentwood High School lab where they did their work. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Ten Long Island students are among 96 regional finalists in the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

The announcement Wednesday came a day after 498 students, including 69 in the Island’s public and private schools, were named semifinalists. The regional finalists will present their projects via video conference next month to judges at designated universities.

The projects going on to the elite contest’s next level range across the spectrum of scientific inquiry. Students on Long Island probed ways to regenerate teeth and suppress tumors. One project was titled “Can Cars Fly?”

The selections set off a new countdown, and students said they would rush to prepare for the next round.

“There’s a lot of work we have to do in the next two weeks,” said Stephen Lee, 16, a junior at Manhasset High School, who was recognized along with his teammate Fred Chu, also 16 and a junior.

The Siemens Competition allows students to compete as individuals or as a team of two or three members. At the national finals in December, a total of $500,000 in scholarship awards will be given, with $100,000 grand prizes to the top individual and the top team.

Among the Island’s regional finalists in the individual category are one student from Smithtown High School East and one from Ward Melville High School in the Three Village school district.

Moving to the next level in team competition are two students from Syosset High School, two from Manhasset High School and a third duo that has one student from Smithtown High School West and one from Brentwood High School.

A Jericho High School student is team leader on a project with two others, one from New York City and one from New Jersey, and a student from Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills is on a team with out-of-state partners.

Individuals and teams solely from Long Island high schools will present their projects to judges at Carnegie Mellon University on Nov. 18-19, while those on teams with students from other places will have their research judged either at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Nov. 4-5 or the University of Notre Dame on Nov. 11-12.

Manhasset’s Lee and Chu discovered a cheaper and cleaner alternative to silicon-based solar cells. The two now are working to meet contest requirements, such as lengthening their presentation to 12 minutes and formatting their findings onto a tall poster board.

Syosset students Nikhil Saggi and Eric Pun, both 17 and seniors, were recognized for investigating the ill effects of extreme temperatures on the curing of concrete. They found that a sodium silicate could make it easier for cement to cure in warm temperatures, but not in cold temperatures, which Saggi said “make it really hard to form ideal cement.”

Saggi and Pun spent the summer months in the school district’s science labs watching the cement solidify. They kept some samples at room temperature and tested others in freezers and in incubators to mimic the effects of extreme temperatures.

“It’s great; I’m glad that we had the whole summer and school year to work things out,” Pun said. “I feel very accomplished.”

Alice Wu, 17, a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School West, was selected for her research that aims to regenerate teeth. She said she hopes her work encourages others to do research into the subject. “It isn’t a heavily researched project,” said Wu, who wants to study either computer science or biomedical engineering in college.

Susell Contreras, 17, a senior at Brentwood High School, paired up with Sarah Adamo, 16, a junior at Smithtown High School West, and studied the structures of sea anemones. They added nicotine to the organism and watched it contract. The reaction was evidence that anemones have a type of receptor thought to be in more complex organisms, they said.

“It essentially brings us back in time to the first moments of evolution,” Joanne Figueiredo, science research coordinator at Smithtown High School West, said in an interview. “There are many people who are interested how the nervous system evolved.”

Contreras said she hopes others will be inspired to expand on the research. “The scientific community is more about what all of us find together,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

Winners of the regional events will advance to the national finals, to be held Dec. 5-6 at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Long Island’s Siemens Competition regional finalists

Sarah Adamo, 16, Smithtown High School West

Jang Hun Choi, 16, Jericho High School

Fred Chu, 16, Manhasset High School

Susell Contreras, 17, Brentwood High School

Stephen Lee, 16, Manhasset High School

Erika Nemeth, 17, Smithtown High School East

Eric Pun, 17, Syosset High School

Nikhil Saggi, 17, Syosset High School

Nestor Tkachenko, 17, Ward Melville High School

Alice Wu, 17, Half Hollow Hills High School West


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