MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 13, 2014

Baby birds, ADHD top science projects

Regional science, engineering fair names winners

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Alex Hsieh said in his opinion everyone who entered the 49th annual Muskogee Regional Science and Engineering Fair was a winner.

Hsieh, 11, who attends St. Joseph Catholic School, said he was surprised when his project on avian imprinting won “Best of Fair” from the judges.

“The project is about how birds try to find a mother within a few hours of hatching,” Hsieh said. “That’s called imprinting. I didn’t think it would win. It took me half a year to get the results on this project.”

Judges deliberated and interviewed participants on Tuesday, then announced the winners on Wednesday morning to a crowded Civic Center full of expectant young science enthusiasts from several local and area schools.

Dr. Stuart Woods, the chief judge in the competition, said the caliber of the projects this year was on par, but the numbers were lower than usual.

“As always, we have some truly magnificent stuff,” Woods said. “There are a few projects that if they continued their research, it might result in some very significant findings. The two best of fair exhibits were amazing. However, the high school participant numbers were down this year.”

The Science and Engineering Fair exhibits ranged on topics from conservation of energy to biology. The top prize in the senior division went to a patent pending project prepared by Ashlee Fletcher and Makenna Hukill, both seniors at Muskogee High School.

Fletcher said their project contained a lot of confidential data, but focused on the negative side effects of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who were prescribed medication prematurely.

“We’re trying to come up with alternative methods to medication,” Fletcher said. “We want to implement some strategies in classrooms that revolve around holistic and natural alternatives.”

Hukill spoke for the duo and said the victory was the cherry on top of a great year, and talked about their future plans.

“We’ve been friends all our lives,” she said. “We’ve been working on this for months, and we’re also going to be roommates at Oklahoma University next year. Everyone knows someone with ADHD, and I think that makes our project accessible to people. We’re actually applying for a patent on our intellectual property.”

The two best of fair prizes come with $150 in prize money, and all three winners said they planned to save it. Hsieh said he was saving for a computer game, and Fletcher and Hukill both said it might come in handy buying books for college next year.

“It might buy us a single book,” Hukill said.

Woods said he wanted to encourage anyone interested in the Science and Engineering Fair to participate next year.

“You don’t know how fun this is,” he said. “I’m proud of each and every one of our participants this year. Connors State College is honored and happy to be a sponsor. These events give everyone who participates encouragement, and I think our kids need that.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.