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Hundreds of students compete in the Pinellas County History Fair

Brandon Sellers, 13, of Palm Harbor Middle School stands by as Veronique Conus and Gay Gentry judge his history project on Alexander Graham Bell at the Pinellas County History Fair.


Brandon Sellers, 13, of Palm Harbor Middle School stands by as Veronique Conus and Gay Gentry judge his history project on Alexander Graham Bell at the Pinellas County History Fair.

The Pinellas County History Fair just keeps growing.

"I know I said last year's fair was the biggest one, but this year's fair is really, really the biggest fair ever,'' said Alan Kay, coordinator of the event as he compiled notes and numbers during Thursday's judging at Largo Library.

The event, in its 12th year, drew 250 middle and high school students from 19 schools, both private and public. Last year, 10 schools participated.

"More and more people learn about us, and so each year, it's gotten bigger,'' said Kay, a history teacher at East Lake High School.

The top two students from each category will head for the state fair in Tallahassee in May. From there, Florida will send its top two winners in each category to nationals, held at the University of Maryland in June.

The categories included 3-D exhibit, documentary, research paper, performance and Web page.

For first-time participant Brandon Sellers, an eighth-grader at Palm Harbor Middle School, the toughest part of the competition wasn't coming up with the idea, or completing a 3-D display on his subject, Alexander Graham Bell: it was handling the judges.

"They didn't seem to be agreeing with me, but then when they started nodding and smiling more, I relaxed,'' he said.

More than 60 people, ranging from college professors to county employees, volunteered to help out as judges. Groups of three judges visited each participant, studying the work and asking the students questions.

Judge Veronique Conus, a former student of Kay's, is a four-time History Day winner who now lives in Seattle. To attend the event, Conus, who graduated from Dunedin High School in 2003, took a vacation from her job at a blog marketing company.

"I came to help Mr. Kay, and I have to say, this fair has grown massively,'' the 25-year-old said. "One big difference is the students have sources that we didn't have just six years ago. We had to carry around 20-pound monitors and they're doing their work on laptops. And we thought we were high tech.''

For the first time, Heritage Village was officially linked with the Pinellas County History Fair.

"Our partnership is valuable because it officially links what we do, concerning history, with the event,'' said Tracy Spikes, curator of education at Heritage Village.

Spikes thinks the program also helps in one of his life goals: showing students that history "is not boring.''

"I think one of the reasons the event keeps growing is because the kids talk about it and encourage more students to participate," Spikes said. "This also helps kids realize that studying history is not geeky.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at

And the winners are:

The following are winning middle and high school students and entries:

Alex Nunnelly, "The Individual in History: Chairman Mao"

Taylor Wagner, "Haley Koko and Cody Thurber, the Jordan Effect"

Laurel Marois and Chelsea Rowe, "Making a Fashion Statement: Coco Chanel"

Carina Baba, "Elizabeth Blackwell"

Lauren Olinger and Ellie Holloway, "Taking on an Empire: Queen Boudica and the Revolt against Rome"

Nick Nunnelly, Alex Drexler, Luke Nunnelly, Andrew Heber and Steven Tellios, "The Life and Legacy of Billy Mitchell"

Rhiannon Strayer, "Coco Chanel"

Jared Elinger, "King of Rockets: Pawn of Nations"

Tyler Kellmann, "Drew Posavec and Mike Lieberman, Albert Einstein"

Zac Smith, "Michael Warren, Jason Kiracofe and Dan Allweiss, Ray Kroc: He's Loving It"

Stephen Mandula, "Defending the West: King Leonidas and Thermopylae"

Joe Donnelly, "The Third Act of John Wilkes Booth"

Hayden Greene, "The Lamp Remains Lit: Florence Nightingale and Modern Nursing"

Shelby Olson, "Alphonsus Capone"

Monica Trevino, Kayla Adams, Elisa Ruiz, Larissa Davila, Cassie Jarrell, "No More! Stories of African American Women who Struggled for Dignity and Freedom From Slavery"

Mitch Marois, Crawford Hunt, Rachel Burns and Tatiana Baccari, "How the Other Half Lives: Jacob Riis and the Exposure of American Poverty"

Mary Reischman, "Nelly Bly: An Original Investigative Journalist"

Ricky Carr, "Thomas Edison: Lighting the World"

Skyler Ellenburg, "Dr. James Robert Cade, MD"

Brae Elliott and Meagan Alexander, "Robert E. Lee: A Transitioning America"

Hannah Krohn, Melissa Scharf and Jordan Mavrakos, "Dorothea Dix: Hero of the Mentally Ill"

Evie Sobczak, "Julia Child Revolutionized American Culinary"

Rohit Reddy, "Leo Hendrik Baekeland: A True Individual Who Invented Bakelite"

Nicholas Fernandez and Jerry Ray Logemann, "Louis Pasteur: The Germ Theory of Disease"

Gabriel Sacco and Hunter Cole, "Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans"

Alex Saltiel, "Upton Sinclair: Muckraker and Political Activist"

Delany Abood, "Mary McLeod Bethune: A Quiet Fighter for Civil Rights"

Kelsea Schulenberg, "Elizabeth Blackwell"

Alice Leavengood and Adrianna Wenz, "Charles Darwin: The Building Block in the Theory of Evolution"

Victoria Koutsoubos, Allie Vulgamore and Hannah Hartford, "The Trial of Susan B. Anthony"

Alex Grant, "Castro: The Individual that Changed Cuba"

Samantha Irvine, "Daniel Boone: The Man Behind the Myth"

Alex Meadows, "Everton Foster and Vikesh Patel, Coca Cola"

Jacob Alexander and James Wenz, "Dr. Martin Cooper and the Communication Revolution"

Winning schools:

East Lake High School, Dixie Hollins High School, Shorecrest High School, Shorecrest Middle School, Safety Harbor Middle School, St. Paul's Middle School, Coachman Fundamental Middle School, Meadowlawn Middle School and Madeira Beach Middle School.

Hundreds of students compete in the Pinellas County History Fair 02/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 3:31am]
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