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Making science fair history

By Amanda Brauchler, RCHS intern writer; photos courtesy of Shawndra Fordham

Photo of Rock Canyon students Shelbie Johnson, Camryn Allen and Riley England

Shelbie Johnson, Camryn Allen and Riley England posed with their second place award for the microplastics category. The group is set to present their research at state.

After months of preparation, Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) science students presented their research at the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair. With 10 total projects, the groups made school history.

One team placed fourth overall, the highest rank in RCHS history. Five groups placed in individual categories. Eight students won special awards. Biotechnology teacher Susanne Petri was named the Colorado Association of Science Teachers “Teacher of the Year.”

Reagan Oates and Reese Titensor placed fourth overall with their research on how stress impacts teens. They placed first in the individual category for social sciences. While they did qualify for state, the competition was postponed until further notice due to COVID-19. Even without state, the duo is using their research to impact their community.

Biotech teacher Susanne Petri posed with her Teacher of the Year

Photo of Biotech teacher Susanne Petri posed with her Teacher of the Year

Biotech teacher Susanne Petri posed with her Teacher of the Year award from the Colorado Association of Science Teachers.

“Our research just starts the whole conversation about student mental health and how faculty, administration and parents can effect and actually support students throughout their experience at school,” Oates said.

Oates and Titensor will present their research to the Douglas County School Board’s Accountability Committee, RCHS administration, and the Douglas County School District’s Superintendent Cabinet. The Jefferson County School District wants to use the duo’s research and broaden it to their students through a survey.

“Getting those resources to the students who are actually struggling is really the big part of [our] research,” Oates said. “We want to identify and understand the stressors and then help those people who are struggling.”

Camryn Allen, Shelbie Johnson and Riley England placed second in their individual category of microbiology. Their research analyzed how polystyrene, a microplastic, affected Tetrahymena Thermophila, a model organism used in experimental biology.

Photo of Reese Titensora with first place award.

80108 resident Reese Titensor smiled with her first place award in the category of social sciences. Titensor and her partner, Reagan Oates, won fourth overall.

“It was honestly nerve-wracking to present the research that we had worked so hard on, but we knew that no matter what the outcome was, we would be proud of everything we accomplished,” England said. Their team qualified for state as well.

While the live science fair was canceled, they hope to present their research virtually by video. “I’m excited to be discussing our research on a high level, as the research we did was very relevant to the water in our communities,” England said.

Other students who placed at the fair: In animal sciences, Charlie LeMieux, Sarah Lombardi and Shristi Jerath placed first. Olivia Gibson and Anna Meuniere placed second. In plant sciences, Sage Wheeler, Hope James and Derek Fearon placed first. Students Hope James, Derek Fearon, Sage Wheeler, Sam Isert, Emma Carillion, Roshni Phillip, Tia Abraham and Nikhila Narayana were special award winners at the fair.

The University of Colorado Denver’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has hosted the fair since 1963, making this its 57th fair. If students place at the fair, they move onto state or international competitions.



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