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Science fair celebrates 36th anniversary

In this photo from last year’s Gwinnett County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, students take part in a Georgia Gwinnett College demonstration. More than 800 Gwinnett students will compete with 600 projects during this year’s fair, which begins on Friday. (Special Photo)

In this photo from last year’s Gwinnett County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, students take part in a Georgia Gwinnett College demonstration. More than 800 Gwinnett students will compete with 600 projects during this year’s fair, which begins on Friday. (Special Photo)

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At last year’s career expo at the Gwinnett County Regional Science and Engineering Fair, students talk with representatives from Delta Airlines. More than 800 Gwinnett students will compete with 600 projects during this year’s fair, which begins on Friday. (Special Photo)

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A judging interview takes place during last year’s Gwinnett County Regional Science and Engineering Fair. (Special Photo)

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Jonathon Wetherington

As a Central Gwinnett High student in 1993, Jonathon Wetherington remembers the magnetic levitation train being a big deal. Now, the popular exhibits are about computer simulations and software application development.

As Gwinnett County Public Schools’ director of science, Wetherington said he remembers being inspired by teacher Gary Loveless, which kick-started a career in science that began as a participant in the Gwinnett County Regional Science Fair.

The 36th annual installment opens on Friday at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, and Wetherington believes students could see him as a first-hand example of how students could view a career path.

“I think it’s a great example,” he said. “The training in science and engineering opens an unlimited number of fields for students. Powerful life skills that translate across many areas. Other things in my life connected me into science. The fair really is a great example of those experiences that we inspire students in education, medicine, health, science and engineering.”

This year, more than 800 Gwinnett students will compete with 600 projects which already have won first-place at their local school science fairs. The students who advanced to this districtwide regional competition will be judged by Georgia professionals and scientists who will assess them on scientific quality, accuracy, creativity and experimental design.

Because of the growth in student participation, there will be two awards ceremonies this year. The ceremony for students in kindergarten through fifth grade is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., while students in sixth grade through high school will be recognized from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Last year we had such a large showing for our awards ceremony that we ran out of space,” Wetherington said. “We don’t want to violate fire code while we’re celebrating student success.”

Wetherington began his career as a bioscience pharmacologist researching epilepsy and said participating in the fair was a life-changing event.

“At the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” he recalled as a student. “The science and engineering fair cemented my desire to be a scientist.”

After four years as a researcher, Wetherington said he was drawn to the classroom because of the opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math that students weren’t necessarily aware of.

Wetherington said in recent years, more schools see the fair as an instructional opportunity because students need to collect data, communicate results and write a conclusion to the project, so it brings skills from different content areas into one project.

Schools and communities also see a value in the fair because it brings groups and organizations together to work on a common goal.

“I’m excited to see the students,” Wetherington said. “Students are so excited; they bring so much energy to the fair that everyone leaves feeling valued and it was worth the time everyone invests.”

Several high school student researchers will participate from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the “Distinguished Research Symposium,” which provides students a forum to share their research with the community.

From Collins Hill High Raheela Charania, a senior, on “Determining Which Species Contain the Wolbachia Infection,”; Karen Gu, junior, “Silver Nanoparticle Toxicity in Drosophila,” Aksal Vashi, junior and Fernando Cruz, senior, on “Fruit Waste Based Ammonia-Biosorptive Permeable Barriers.”

From the Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology, Willie Jin, a senior, on “Developing Novel Protein Targets for Bordetella Pertussis Antibiotics: Understanding Protein Interfaces and Domain-Domain Interactions”; Simran Modi, sophomore, “An Assessment of Cardiac Troponin T in a Post-Myocardial Infarction Porcine Model.”

From Mill Creek High, Sergio Parra, a senior, “Designing the M.A.R.S. Suit,” Mounika Pogula, a senior, “Chemical Pollution and Water Quality.”

From Mountain View High, Peter Schlueter, a senior, “Saving the World from the Trematodes: A New Biological Control-The Giant Waterbug.”

From Parkview High, Debarshi Ryan Bhowmik, a sophomore, “Optimal Microenvironment for Growth of Nephrons from Stem Cells.”

From Buford High, Danielle Brooks, a junior, “Temperature Tampers Time.”