Research, hard work and a real inclination for the scientific method are paying off for three Pasco County high school students.
After garnering top honors from the judges at the Pasco Regional Science and Engineering Fair held in early February, Mitchell High's Cornelius van Wyk, 16, and Sunlake High team members Jonathan Calton, 17, and Alex Curry, 16, have been chosen to represent the county at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held May 5 to 9 in San Jose, Calif. The three will compete against 1,500 students from 50 countries for about $3 million in awards and scholarships.
This is the second trip to the international fair for Jonathan and Alex.
The two, who have known each other since they were third-graders at Denham Oaks Elementary, placed first at this year's regional fair after building on last year's winning project. They were also honored with a NASA award.
"It's a great experience to be able to see the area and travel and to see other kids that did all this research," said Jonathan. "Some of their projects just blow you away. They're so incredible."
The two didn't place at last year's international fair.
"We didn't know what to expect," he said, adding that the two are hoping their previous experience will give them an edge for this year's project, "Utilizing a Variant of the Lorentz Force Equation to Analyze Magnetosphere Supplementation and Shielding From Ionizing Radiation."
Cornelius, a junior at Mitchell, will make his first appearance at the international fair after placing first in physics at regional for his project, "Observing and Manipulating Plasma."
"I'm excited about the opportunity," he said. "I'm excited seeing all the projects and meeting all the judges. It's interesting to be with people who share the same interests."
More work and a little tweaking is in order between now and the international fair. All three students should be able to get some helpful feedback when they present their projects at the 55th annual State Science and Engineering Fair to be held next week in Orlando.
"The challenge for them is to be ready," said Mitchell High Science teacher Ed Braddy, who has served as chaperone for the annual trip to the international fair for the past four years and will accompany the students for this year's trek.
"These are the top projects in the world, so it's very competitive," he said. "It's absolutely awesome to go there. I get goose bumps when they announce those two $50,000 scholarships."