Thursday, April 25, 2013

Austin Area Science Fair Students Advance to International Competition

Six science projects involving 9 students from Austin area schools and one from Houston (member of an Austin team) have advanced to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair to be held May 12-17 in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the annual super bowl of science competition involving some 1,500 of the brightest students from around the world (

The students below earned their spots at the International fair by advancing from the Austin Energy Regional Science Fair and the ExxonMobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair ( Congratulations to these excellent students and their schools for this tremendous achievement.

Meet the students and their projects:

Casey Hicks and Leah Powers (Seniors) – Vista Ridge High School, Cedar Park
Application of T4 Bacteriophages in Real-Life

Summary: Many disease-causing bacteria have become antibiotic resistant, meaning that traditional anti-biotics such as penicillin are less effective. These students demonstrate the use of a bacteria’s natural enemy (a virus) to kill the bacteria instead of antibiotic drugs. 

Alex Crisara (Senior) and Alexander Jahan Rabii (Junior) – Anderson High School, Austin
Efficient Algae-Based Life Support for Long Duration Spaceflight

Summary: Current water and oxygen storage techniques play a huge role in limiting the ability to stay in space for long periods because of their weight and limiting supplies. These students developed a system using algae (comparatively inexpensive) to extend astronauts' time in space by recycling water (for reuse) and producing oxygen in the process.

Jessica Wang, Lily Xu (Juniors- Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin) and 
Susan Xu (Junior- Kingwood High, Houston not pictured)
The Connectivity of Sequential Formal Languages with Applications to Genomic Sequences

Summary: Cystic fibrosis is a deadly genetic disease. Current medicine can determine if a patient has the gene but cannot accurately predict if the patient will actually develop the disease. These students created a new mathematical formula for evaluating genes that enables scientists to more accurately predict the probability that a patient who carries the cystic fibrosis gene will actually get the disease.

Vanna Hovanky (Junior) – Bowie High School, Austin
Bacterial β-galactosidase Enzyme-Prodrug Therapy: A New Approach Against Colon Cancer 

Summary: Vanna developed a way to transform harmless bacteria (normally already found in the colon) into a colon cancer-fighting mechanism. The bacteria basically converts a nontoxic drug into a cancer-fighting drug within the colon itself.

Advaith Anand (Junior), Lasa High School, Austin 
Natural Gas Separation Using Thermally Rearranged Polymers - Characterizing Morphological Changes of HAB-6FDA Polyimide Structures

Summary: When natural gas comes out of the ground, it is not in a readily usable form. It must be separated from all of the other liquids and gases (including CO2) before it can be used. This is currently an expensive and relatively inefficient process. Advaith proposes the use of a new material and inventive process that will separate the gas in a more cost effective and efficient manner, thereby reducing production costs and increasing efficiency.

London Bolsius (Sophmore) – Round Rock High School, Round Rock
3D Scanner

Summary: 3D scanners can scan real-world objects (such as a machine part) and import that object into a computer as a 3D object that can then be manipulated on a computer. 3D scanners currently exist but are prohibitively expensive. This student has created a highly accurate 3D scanner that uses “off the shelf” components and software for around $300.


  1. We were honored to host these young men and women. We were more than impressed with their projects. We wish that every person in the Austin area could see the work ethic, dedication, and understanding that when into these projects. But, even more than the quality of the projects, we were impressed by the quality of these young people. Our future is bright in the hands of students like these. We wish them the very best as they head to Arizona.

  2. Congratulations to the Austin area students who'll be competing in Phoenix! We enjoyed having you all at the Compass Learning office this week to show off your hard work and celebrate your success.

    Best of luck in Phoenix--we're rooting for you!

    April McAnally - Compass Learning

  3. I was so blown away by each and every one of you. And sure, the experiments were impressive, but what impressed me the most was your poise, your enthusiasm and your engaging personalities. Go get 'em in Phoenix! I know you'll do Austin proud!