Tomorrow’s greatest scientific minds could be junior high school students in Beeville today.

Five Moreno Junior High School students received recognition for their projects at the Coastal Bend Regional Science Fair, which was held Feb. 20 in Corpus Christi. The students were among 12 who were selected as the top performers in their school’s fair, said Matt Ortega, head of the Beeville Independent School District’s science department.

Ortega said Beeville students competed against their counterparts from approximately 30 other districts within the Coastal Bend region. Projects spanned 18 categories such as basic chemistry, programming, physics and material science.

Standouts from Moreno included:

• Allison Arthur, eighth grade, “Radiation Investigation”: First place Materials Science Division, state qualifier, National Broadcom Masters Qualifier;

• Tatum Willis, seventh grade, “Wifi Blockers Wet Edition,”: First place Embedded Systems Division, state qualifier;

• Reagan Norquist, eighth grade, “Wind Energy”: Second place Renewable Energy: Physical Science Division;

• Lilliana Martinez, eighth grade, “Is the water you drink safe?”: Stockholm Junior Water Prize ($75);

• Brayden Martorell, seventh grade, “Acid Rain and Aquatic Life”: Stockholm Junior Water Prize ($25).

“I like to tell them to pick something they’re passionate about, so that sort of gears where they’re going,” Ortega said.

For instance, he said Martinez became annoyed with some water boil orders that have affected Beeville municipal water customers over the past few years. She wanted to determine whether the city’s water actually was safe to drink.

“(Tatum Willis) wondered why the Wifi doesn’t work in her room,” Ortega said.

Last year, Willis’ project involved interference dry objects pose to wireless fidelity waves, Ortega said. This year, her project explored how the signals react to wet objects.

Arthur moves on to the national competition in the summer, an honor bestowed upon just 8 percent of the participants at the regional fair. She will face students from all over the country, each of whom will be tasked with problem solving.

“They put her in a category and give her a real-world problem and she tries to solve it,” Ortega said.

Unlike science fairs in years’ past, this year’s  regional event was entirely electronic and lacked an oral presentation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ortega said. Projects were submitted with a PowerPoint presentation and handed in electronically.

The students’ interest in science is part of the efforts of Ortega and other teachers in the department to build that excitement among students.

“Working on building science in the community, I’m from here and I want to build it,” he said. “It’s been fun. We’ve been preparing them for high school science

“These kids are great. They’re so bright. It’s fun to see their curiosity.”

Four of the five Beeville standouts are girls, which represents an increasing presence by females in the sciences.

“I call them our GEMS – Girls in Engineering, Math and Science,” Ortega said.

But the students’ success would not be as great without the help and support of their parents, he said.

“When the parents can be a part of the education process and be just as invested as we are, it’s great,” Ortega said.

wgibbs@mysoutex.com

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