MONTE VISTA— The Monte Vista School District continued a tradition of excellence at the 69th Annual San Luis Valley Regional Science Fair on the night of Friday, March 2. Students winning a trip to the 2018 International Science and Engineering fair (ISEF) are all from the Monte Vista High School and the Junior Observer is from Monte Vista Middle School.
The two ISEF winners are Molly Nehring and Alyssa Rawinski. Nehring and Rawinski were coincidentally also the 2017 ISEF winners. They both won a trip to ISEF that will be held in Pittsburgh this year, $500 cash and a TI calculator. In the event that one of the two cannot attend an alternate will be sent. This year’s alternate Amber Michael is also from Monte Vista High School. Teacher Lori Harvey will also attend the international fair with the students.
Rawinski and Nehring’s names will be placed for 2018 on the ISEF plaque in Monte Vista High School.
The Junior Observer Award is given to a middle school student to attend ISEF as an observer and learn what makes good projects at that level. This year’s junior observer Camille Rawinski is from Monte Vista Middle School.
The four projects won multiple awards throughout the awards ceremony on Friday night. They will also be attending the state competition.
Students from across the entire Valley competed. Nineteen students from several districts won a trip to the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair. Several scholarships, awards of merit and special awards were presented to students.
This year Heather Messick Dutton, a previous science fair competitor and ISEF attendee, gave the alumni address to the young scientists. Lucy Adams, regional science fair director, introduced Dutton and stated that she believeds that much of the success Dutton has enjoyed can be attributed to the skills she learned preparing and researching a project.
Dutton traveled down from Fort Collins to address the students of the regional science fair. She currently manages the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. Dutton said she participated in many school activities during her Sargent High School career but she “can say pretty confidently that she learned the most and gained the most skills through science fair.”
“I learned how to write scientifically and how to speak to groups of people. I learned to convey ideas and how to convince judges that my projects were pretty cool,” she said.
Dutton started participating in science fairs in the fourth grade and had completed eight projects by the time she graduated from high school. “I was thrilled to get to go to state many times and twice to international. Both times I placed in the botany category. Those were really great projects which I remember fondly, “ said Dutton.
She then switched focus and shared a story about a project that went horribly wrong and that she described as an “epic fail.” Science fair was a family affair in Dutton’s household growing up. Dutton said that her dad would help her with the research and data and her mom would help her with her board and made sure her and her dad didn’t sneak off to the mountains on weekends when she should be making progress on her project.
Dutton explained that during her freshman year she was interested in composting. She set up a project related to that subject, in which would be sampling potatoes for diseases. A researcher from CSU had agreed to help her collect the data and test her samples for diseases. She grew concerned after not hearing from the researcher for several weeks and being unable to contact him. Dutton quickly learned that the researcher had been in a terrible car accident and that many of her samples had been destroyed in the wreck. As a result she did not have her conclusions at regionals and did not make it to state but still won several awards.
“I still feel really good about that project because I didn’t quit and gave it all I had in a really tough situation. In science fair and in life, things will not always go well but you can always learn something from the experience…”said Dutton. She told students they were learning valuable skills they would use later in life and encouraged them to “always keep learning and always keep exploring.”