South River High School sophomores Sally Albright and Allison Marie Raines were totally shocked last week when they found out they had won the “First Award” in the Environmental Management category of the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair.
Their project, Effect of Antifreeze on a Keystone Species, won the $3,000 prize during the Los Angeles-based competition, and a $1,000 grant will be given to both their school and the Intel ISEF Affiliated Fair they represent.
“It was really, really shocking,” Albright said, of when the award was announced last week in Los Angeles. “I leaned over to Allie and said ‘What the heck?’ I almost forgot to get up.”
The girls were up against over 300 other projects in their category that included “incredible game changing projects,” Albright said. “These kids were from all over. Some traveled days on a plane to get there. … There were new air filters, new ways to compost, really incredible projects. I didn’t think our project was at that caliber. It was a study, not really a new product.”
Those at the competition, however, earned the right to compete at the Intel ISEF 2014 by winning a top prize at their local, regional, state, or national science fair. They spanned ninth to 12 grade.
“With almost 1,800 students from close to 70 countries in this round of the competition, I think our students are phenomenal,” said Zipporah Miller, Anne Arundel County Public School Coordinator of Science. “I am extremely proud of Allie and Sally.”
Project works toward a cleaner Bay
Albright and Raines’ project determined the effect of Ethylene Glycol (antifreeze) on eastern oysters’ ability to filter, feed and respire — essentially their ability to clean the Chesapeake Bay, Albright explained. They concluded that antifreeze actually cuts that ability in half, she said.
Albright has been interested in environmental science since she was a Brownie in Scouts. Her troop did an oyster restoration project that entailed putting several oyster pots in the water off the dock at her home in Edgewater. She watched firsthand how the pots cleaned the water around the doc and created a new healthy habitat, she said. So she knew wanted to focus her science project on oysters. Raines, meanwhile, wanted to study a commonly used product and how it effects the environment. They chose antifreeze because it is so widely used, especially at airports to deice planes.
They performed the experiment in Albright’s laundry room in 5 gallon buckets.
“It was a very home grown lab,” she said. “My house smelled like a cesspool for a day or so.”
The girls hope to continue work on the project, developing a solution or a way to combat the problem. They hope to talk to the Environmental Protection Agency about having antifreeze added to the Clean Water Act.
“That would help bring it to the surface,” Albright said.
Albright plans to go into environmental science and environmental politics one day and Raines plans to study computer science. Both girls are in the STEM program at South River High School.