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Valley View sixth graders eligible for national science fair

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.
Valley View sixth graders eligible for national science fair

Three Valley View sixth graders have bonded over science and hope to take their award-winning project to national competition next fall. Rahael Achett, Indra Khariwala and Ruhi Kurdikar won numerous awards at state competition with a science project that focused on something they could all relate too – bacteria on school desks.

The young scientists developed protocols for their research, and then refined and standardized their methods in order to run the experiment a second time. Using sterile materials and controlled testing protocols, they swabbed the desk closest to the door in a language arts and a science classroom used by each of the three grade levels. Their hypothesis was that desks in science classrooms would have less bacteria because they are cleaned more often.

They were somewhat surprised to find that their results varied by grade level. Seventh grade desks were the same in each classroom, and sixth and eighth grade desks had opposite results, with grade six language arts desks containing more bacteria, and grade eight science desks showing more than the younger grades. They have concluded this is the result of the differing types of work done by grade level. They were also quick to note that they did not classify the bacteria they found. “Some bacteria is good,” Indra said. “We didn’t classify to see what was good or bad, or what is the right amount to have.”

The girls credit teacher Alysa Kappel for supporting their work and encouraging their original entry into the regional science fair, where they competed with high schoolers. Although they were ineligible for awards at regionals, the judges were impressed and suggested they compete at the state science fair.

All three said they have long had an interest in science, each in a slightly different way. Indra said she has enjoyed doing science kits and viewed them as a “recreational activity.” “This experiment proved to me that I like science, and now it has gotten more serious,” she said.

Ruhi finds chemistry of particular interest. “I like to mix things together and see what happens,” she said. Spoiled food does not go to waste at her house as Ruhi quickly turns it into a chemistry experiment.

All three agreed that Rahael is a “science fanatic.” “I have been doing science fairs since kindergarten,” she said. “Projects on everything from balloons to gravity. I have a lab in the garage.” Her interest in laboratory science comes naturally. Her father works in the lab at Metro Pediatrics, which supported their work by providing some of their materials and allowing them to use their incubator. However, most of their project work was done at school during advisory, flex time, before and after school, and on Facetime during a no-school blizzard day.

The Valley View scientists were awarded Second Place for Excellence in Environmental Health Science, Third Place in the Beckman Coulter Science Award and received the Emerging Scientist Award from SeaGate. All in all, there was a trophy, medals and a number of certificates, which led to being among a select number of students invited to apply for the Broadcom Masters National Science Fair in the fall.

They are excited for the possibility and hope to, again, wear their matching science fair attire. “We were going for a lab vibe, but not too serious because we are kids,” said Ruhi. They settled on pink button-down shirts over blue t-shirts designed with test tubes, various science emblems, and the words “Stay Curious.”