With its first place win yesterday at the 6th Annual Northwestern University High School Project Showcase, Oak Park and River Forest High School science students capped off an undefeated season of science symposia. Of the six competitions that the OPRFHS Investigative Research in Biomedical Innovation, or IRBI, class entered, students won first place either individually or as a team in all six. For its latest first place overall win at the Northwestern symposium, the IRBI class beat out tough competition from Adlai E. Stevenson High School and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Individual first place wins went to McCabe Barrett, Sean Hickey, and Connor Kotte.
IRBI students have a full year to generate an idea for a research project, find a mentor who is an expert in their chosen field, then conduct research and produce a 40-page paper, 12-minute PowerPoint presentation, and formal research poster. Throughout the winter and spring, they entered these research products in various competitions around the Chicago area—as well as nationally, based on local wins. The IRBI class is taught by Allison Hennings, who was a finalist in the 2013 Golden Apple Awards.
Among the IRBI students’ wins this year:
- Senior Rebecca Streit placed first and senior Matthew Hennings placed second in the state in the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge. As first-place winner, Rebecca competed with students from across the country to become one of 10 who will represent the United States in the International BioGENEius Challenge, the most prestigious high school biotechnology competition in the world. For her winning project, Rebecca focused on using natural compounds in spinach to convert dangerous residue from explosives into less toxic compounds. For his project, Matthew created a bandage based on spider webs that kills bacteria and prevents the growth of new bacteria; it will be especially useful for patients with ulcers such as diabetic foot ulcers.
- First place as a team in the Illinois State University Science Symposium, for the highest performing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) high school. IRBI students wrested first place trophy the Golden Cup away from Niles North, which had been the top winner for many years. The following students had individual place wins:
o Director's Award: Connor Kotte
o Chemistry - 1st Place: Rebecca Streit
o Environmental Sciences - 1st Place: Jenna Rouse
o Microbiology - 1st Place: Sean Hickey
o Plant Sciences - 1st Place: McCabe Barrett
o Product Sciences - 1st Place: Connor Kotte
o Social and Behavioral Sciences - 1st Place: Adrian Karkut
o Animal Sciences - 2nd Place: Ethan Gyllenhaal
o Biochemistry - 2nd Place: Latroy Robinson
o Social and Behavioral Sciences - 2nd Place: Marley Bright
o Engineering - 3rd Place: Ford Minaghan
o Product Sciences - 3rd Place: Noelani Hoe
- Senior Noelani Ho placed first in the Chicago Junior Science and Humanities Symposium with her engineering design for a new ballet pointe shoe that can reduce dancers’ foot injuries. For the next level of competition, Noelani traveled to Dayton, Ohio, May 1-5 for the 51st National Junior Science & Humanities Symposium, where 240 students from across the country vied for the chance to compete this summer at the London International Youth Science Forum.
- Seventeen OPRF students were selected to advance to the next level in the Midwest Research Competition: Positive Impact Investigatory Design, where the team took first place overall and won $1,000 for the IRBI class. This competition focused on how high school students can use their ideas to have a positive impact on the world around them. The following students took individual places, which came with monetary awards:
o 1st place: Matthew Hennings
o 2nd place: Rosie Huggins
o 3rd place: Jenna Rouse
o Runners up: Naren Chaudry and Ethan Gyllenhaal
- First through third place individual junior/senior wins at the Percy Julian Science Symposium for, respectively, Matthew Hennings, Adrian Karkut, and Noelani Ho.
Finally, in addition to the competitions, Matthew Hennings obtained one of the first ever digital badges issued by INTEL, for excellent scientific writing.