A regional STEM competition

Every year thousands of students in Hillsborough County, Florida enter the state’s STEM competition, but only the very best make it to the finals. In this segment, we take a look at the regional competition and meet the students preparing to be the cutting edge scientists of tomorrow.


Every year, thousands of students in Hillsborough County, Florida, enter the state's STEM competition.

But only the very best make it to the finals.

In this segment, we take a look at the regional competition, and meet the students preparing to be the cutting-edge scientists of tomorrow.

It's really cool to see the different students out here.

They're really passionate about their science-fair projects.

It was just really interesting to see what other people -- projects that they had come up with, and how they can incorporate that into the real-world situations currently going on.

I really love getting to see what everybody else came up with.

I mean, there's some really interesting projects here.

These students are talking about their experience at the 2017 Regional STEM Fair for Hillsborough County schools.

The Hillsborough Regional STEM Fair is our single largest academic competition in the district.

So, today we have just over 1,700 students.

But many of them also already competed at the school level.

In terms of scope, we have over 100,000 students competing in the STEM Fair at their local level.

And, so, really, here at the convention center, it's the best of the best.

The best have come from all corners of the county because of their passion for science, technology, engineering, and math.

The Hillsborough Regional STEM Fair is an opportunity for students to really come together around the work that they've done, and for us in the community to honor that work.

So, for some students that might not be interested, say, in football or in soccer, this really is their Super Bowl.

We decided to do our own research and experimentation to determine what makes a STEM Fair participant successful at this level.

We randomly selected three students and their projects.

My project is titled How Vitamin E Delta Tocotrienol Targets Cancer Stem-Cell Transcription Factors, and also Inhibits the Pancreatic-Cancer Metastasis.

Sayyada Kazim is a senior at Tampa Bay Tech.

Her work is focused on finding cures for cancer, and she really knows her stuff.

The beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienols are known to inhibit the growth.

But the delta tocotrienol is the most bioactive anti-tumor agent.

However, its effects on the metastatic process and the transcription factors that are involved in that metastatic process are not known, so that's why I wanted to investigate this.

Yeah, we had a hard time following all that, too.

But it is all science and medicine, and it is what it takes to be on the cutting edge of cancer research, and something she's passionate about.

There are different challenges.

But, you know, you just have to stay grounded.

Researchers need to have patience, and they have to make sure that they do not make mistakes, because once you make one mistake, then everything's messed up.

Sayyada was very successful.

She was the first-place winner in the Senior Division for Biomedical and Health Science.

She also won the NASA Earth System Science Award, and Woman in STEM Award.

So, the project title's Water Purification by Controlling Turbidity Using Natural Coagulants.

Ameya Mujumdar is in the 8th grade at Williams Middle Magnet School.

Turbidity is basically the murkiness or cloudiness of all the particles -- dust and everything -- in the water.

So, the current solutions for that right now is using chemicals such as alum sulfate or iron sulfate.

His research is aimed at finding solutions for clean water in developing countries.

I wanted to use natural coagulants 'cause it'll be more economic-friendly, less hazardous to use, and they're also really abundant around the whole world.

So, for example, there's a lot of Moringa trees in Africa.

And Africa really needs a lot of clean water, 'cause there's many developing nations there.

Another one I decided was using peanut shells, because I liked how they're agricultural waste.

So instead of just wasting them directly, we can actually make use of them, because they have the carboxyls which attract the metal ions, such as copper ions, so they can even remove metals.

Ameya had an excellent STEM Fair.

He won first place in the Junior Division Environmental Engineering Award.

He also won the Carollo Cares Award and the Stantec Award.

And I wanted to find something that would benefit the real world.

I wanted to try to make an impact on something that mattered.

So I found this disease, which is also known as black rot.

That's the common name.

Taylor Mingle is in the 12th grade at Brandon High School.

She's seeking ways to treat black rot in certain plants.

I did some research, and I found out that chlorine eliminates the disease, but only for nine days.

So, I said, 'How can I make it last longer?'

So I applied the chlorine in different concentrations to see if it had any effect on it, and then I took a paraffin wax and I melted it down, and I painted it over the chlorine on the leaves of the plant.

And I found that it eliminated the disease for three weeks.

Taylor initially struggled with the idea of even entering the STEM Fair.

When I first had the idea for this project, I was not sure if it was something that I could carry out.

But my teacher encouraged me, and she said, 'You know what, if you want to do it, I want you to try it.'

So I did my research, I figured out exactly what I wanted to do, and I went with it.

And it turned out great.

The thing about science is, even if you don't get the results that you want, you're still collecting research, and you're still doing what you want to do.

Taylor's efforts resulted in a second-place award in the Senior Division for Plant Science.

A STEM Fair alumna has now graduated from college.

She's returned to give back and be a judge today.

So, Jasmine started with us in 4th grade and continued through the system.

And she graduated high school, went on to Johns Hopkins, and that's what we would hope all students have the opportunity to do, should they wish to do so.

Jasmine Roberts is quite a star here.

Today she was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the kickoff breakfast for the fair.

It was a lot of fun to be able to have the opportunity to speak on the science fair, and the impact it had on me.

And then, of course, judging.

It's always great to give back.

And it was kind of nerve-racking, as well, just because it was weird to be on the other side.

Her passion for science at an early age made it easy for her to find her way in college.

Getting that early exposure, if that's what you want to do, for me, it helped guide me for when I went to college.

It helped me decide on what college I wanted to go to.

And I ended up at Johns Hopkins, which is number one in neuroscience, and number one in a lot of science fields.

She appreciates what others did to help propel her toward her goals in science.

Even in high school, I was at the lab until midnight, and my parents would come and stay with me.

So a lot of it was thanks to the support that my parents did give me, and also the support that I had from mentors.

Jasmine is a rock star.

And, you know, it's students like Jasmine that inspire us to continue to do the heavy lift of putting on an event like the STEM Fair.

And the young scientists we met today have these sage words for their fellow students.

The science fair allows students -- it gives the students the opportunity to showcase their work.

If they don't win in the first year, it doesn't matter.

Just keep working hard and come up with a better project next year.

Never give up.

If you're interested in a topic and you have an idea and you're passionate about it, go for it.