The world’s largest high school science fair is about to kick off in Dallas, Texas, bringing together more than 1,600 talented students from over 60 countries. These bright minds will compete for nearly $9 million in prizes, showcasing their innovative projects in various scientific disciplines. Among the impressive entries are projects that tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time: school shootings.
Gone are the days of simple volcano experiments using baking soda and vinegar. Today’s young scientists are driven by a deep sense of purpose and a desire to make a meaningful impact in their communities. They witness the challenges around them and are determined to find solutions.
One remarkable finalist, Ava Cotroneo, hails from Maryland and is passionate about engineering. Instead of opting for a conventional project, she embarked on a mission to create a bulletproof backpack specifically designed for elementary school children. Recognizing her inability to vote but being armed with her engineering skills, Cotroneo was motivated to make a difference in her community.
A Finalist at the World’s Largest High School Science Fair
The motivation behind Cotroneo’s invention is rooted in the grim reality of school shootings. Having experienced the tragedy firsthand in her county, where a 16-year-old girl lost her life during a shooting at Great Mills High School, Cotroneo’s mother, a first-grade teacher, constantly worries about the potential threat. The situation is heartbreaking, and Cotroneo recognized that the best course of action in the face of gun violence is to “play defense.”
Driven to protect innocent lives, Cotroneo embarked on extensive research and experimentation. She secured Kevlar donations from her local Navy base and collaborated with experienced individuals in her community to test her invention using their firearms. The result was a 3-pound plate composed of steel, ceramic, and multiple layers of Kevlar. This ingenious design, fitting seamlessly into backpacks for adults and children, demonstrated its ability to withstand shots from a 9mm handgun or a .223-caliber AR-15.
The international science fair where Cotroneo and her fellow finalists compete serves as a launchpad for young innovators. Many past participants have patented their creations or established successful companies. The fair’s sponsor, Regeneron, a renowned biotech company, was even founded by alums of this prestigious event. It’s no wonder that nearly 20% of these young minds are patent-ready, showcasing the incredible potential nurtured by this platform.
Innovation in the Face of Adversity
Another finalist, Maya Shah from Arlington, Texas, shares a similar drive to address the issue of gun violence. Her research uncovered a positive correlation between psychopathy and intellectual humility, with psychopathy being common among individuals involved in gun-related crimes. This surprising finding revealed that even individuals lacking empathy possess the capacity to change their perspectives.
Growing up in an area plagued by gun violence, Shah understands the constant weight that communities bear. She was particularly affected by the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School, where 21 lives were lost. Determined to find a solution, Shah delved into the correlation between psychopathy, intellectual humility, and the influence of social media.
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While her research dismissed any significant link between psychopathy and social media usage, it shed light on the positive correlation between psychopathy and intellectual humility. This discovery holds profound implications, indicating that even individuals lacking empathy can be persuaded to alter their thinking. Shah’s findings provide hope for intervention and the potential to provide alternative viewpoints and information to individuals displaying psychopathic tendencies.
It is worth noting that Shah is no stranger to tackling projects that delve into sensitive political and cultural debates.
The Effectiveness of Wearing Masks in Schools: Shah’s Study
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maya Shah took it upon herself to investigate the effectiveness of wearing masks in schools. This stirred significant debate in her home state of Texas, which was deeply divided. Shah’s dedication to using science to answer pertinent questions and solve real-world problems led her to conduct a comprehensive study.
Her research focused on evaluating the impact of masks on protecting students from the coronavirus within a school setting. Shah’s findings revealed that masks effectively safeguard students from transmitting the virus. However, she noted a slightly reduced efficacy in protecting adult staff members. These results garnered widespread attention and were eventually published in a reputable scientific medical journal.
Shah’s commitment to using scientific research to address critical issues extends beyond public health. She is driven by a genuine desire to bring positive change to her community. Her participation in the world’s largest high school science fair further exemplifies her dedication to utilizing her scientific knowledge and skills for the betterment of society.
The Society for Science, responsible for organizing science fairs since the 1950s, has nurtured young talent and promoted scientific advancements worldwide. With nearly 400 science fairs held in over 60 countries and territories, the organization serves as a springboard for young scientists to showcase their abilities and pursue their passions.
Harnessing Science for Social Good
As the Regeneron Science and Engineering Fair commences in Dallas, the excitement and anticipation among the 1,600 participants from around the globe are palpable. Armed with their innovative projects, these talented individuals are vying for the impressive $9 million in prizes that await the winners. It is an event that celebrates scientific achievement and serves as a launching pad for future innovators and entrepreneurs.
The world’s largest high school science fair provides a platform for brilliant young minds like Ava Cotroneo and Maya Shah to demonstrate their ingenuity and address pressing issues. Their projects, aimed at tackling school shootings and understanding the correlations between psychopathy and intellectual humility, exemplify their determination to impact their communities positively. The fair’s emphasis on fostering young talent and promoting scientific exploration sets the stage for groundbreaking discoveries and future advancements. As we await the announcement of the winners on May 19, the world eagerly anticipates the incredible potential and bright futures of these remarkable young scientists.