, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 1, 2012

Autism, clean stream projects win fair

Winning exhibits at the Muskogee Regional Science & Engineering Fair could help people with autism communicate and help clean area streams.

The fair, held Tuesday and Wednesday, drew 197 exhibits from seven area counties.

Muskogee High School junior Mattie Dragoo placed Best in Fair, Senior Division, with her exhibit on how people with autism identify facial expressions. She won and all-expense paid trip to participate in the International Science Fair this May in Pittsburgh.

Westville Junior High eighth-grader Amber M. Roberts placed Best in Fair, Junior Division, with an exhibit studying how the Oklahoma Registered Poultry Feeding Operations Act affected area streams. She and her adviser won a trip to the International Science Fair as observers.

Mattie said she had wanted to do a project on autism because her mother is a speech pathologist at Oktaha Public Schools.

“I had read that people with autism don’t make eye contact,” Mattie said.

She said her research shows that people with autism rely on the mouth and lower parts of the face to determine emotion.

“This could help autistic subjects understand a person better,” Dragoo said.

Mattie’s mother, Terri Dragoo, said her daughter’s research could help people with autism interpret expressions “and be more communicative.”

MHS science teacher Terri Brossett called Mattie “a determined young lady.”

“She knows her scientific process. She did her research,” Brossett said. “She’s competed in science fairs and qualified for state four times. It’s kind of innate in her makeup.”

Amber based her science fair project on whether the Oklahoma Registered Poultry Feeding Operations Act has helped area streams. She said she tested for various chemicals in Ballard Creek near her home and found that the law has improved water quality. The law regulates how much chicken litter a producer can generate, what is done with the litter and how the litter is disposed.  

Amber said she’s been interested in environmental issues for a long time. Her family raises cattle, goats and chickens in Adair County. Westville science teacher Jolene Faddis said Amber’s project did well because “It’s an issue affecting all of northeast Oklahoma.”

Adair County has a lot of chicken farms.

Amber remains interested in this issue.

“I’m actually working on my project for next year, testing two different kinds of litter, chicken litter and commercial litter, on water quality,” she said.

Mattie and Amber also are among 27 contestants who qualified for the Oklahoma State Science & Engineering Fair next week in Ada.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

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