Science Fair

photo by flickr user RichardBowen

By Rithika Verma

Amid approaching events like Challenge Day and finals “The Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair” is coming up, giving viewers the opportunity to see all the science projects from participators across the San Diego County. The 59th Annual Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair takes place on March 20th at the Balboa Park Activity Center and projects will be made open to the public the three days following.

Approximately a month ago projects from numerous students from grades 7-12 entered for approval in the “screening fair” process. This process involves checking for any use of hazardous materials and making changes in order to move on to actual science fair. Numerous students from our own Canyon Crest Academy are participating in this year’s science fair and their original projects range from working with cancer cells to observing different processes of life.

Many students work in a laboratory or work in our school facilities in the “Quest” room.  After taking Research Methods (Quest I), a student can take Applied Sciences (Quest II) to have ample time to undergo the process of creating a science fair experiment. Applied Sciences takes all the techniques learned from Research Methods and allows one to apply it to an independent science experiment/project that can be entered in the science fair. Applied Sciences is offered only in the fall semester to prepare for the Science Fair, which takes place in March.

Senior and four-time participant, Nikita Akkala still gets nervous for science fair and is attempting to get her research published. She has previously won categories of Behavioral Sciences and Medicine in Health and multiple professional science awards from companies and foundations. Akkala is president of the student advisor board for The Greater Science and Engineering Fair, which is a committee of ten to fifteen students around San Diego. They hold workshops teaching students how to put together a science fair project and how to get in touch with laboratories. The committee also visits schools around the area to introduce students to the opportunities of science fair and what they can gain from such an experience.

Akkala conducted her research at a lab in the UCSD Moores cancer center. She has expanded and furthered her project from the previous year. She tested the effects of immunosuppressant drugs on proliferation and differentiation on glioblastoma stem cells (the most aggressive brain tumor cells in humans), and normal neurostem cells. In essence, she attempted to see how these drugs typically used for transplants and their suppressive properties affects brain tumor cells and regular brain cells. Gaining favorable results, her goal was accomplished as she observed that the drugs aided in suppressing the brain tumor cells while leaving the regular brain cells intact.

Quest I taught Akkala research methods that she uses at her lab and exposed her to the use of stem cells which initially inspired her to work with them. Quest II gave a lot of time to work and focus in on her project and taught her how to get in contact with labs around the area for help. Interest in Science Fair has gained momentum at Canyon Crest Academy over the years as many of the students have become involved, especially with the unique opportunity of taking Quest, which encourages kids to take their passion for science further.