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Mission to Our Home Planet, a Future with No Landfills and Some Fine Music!

March 21, 2013 by Tony Noerpel filed under Columns, Sustainable Planet No Comments

Loudoun County Regional Science and Engineering Fair Energy and Environmental Sustainability Awards Results and Ceremony Announcement

Every year REHAU, Inc. of Leesburg Virginia along with Sustainable Loudoun sponsors four awards for the Regional Science and Engineering Fair. The name of the award is the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Award. The presentation ceremony will be on Wednesday April 24 at REHAU’s North America headquarters at 1501 Edwards Ferry Rd. in Leesburg. The students will display their winning projects and be available to discuss them at 6:00 p.m. Between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. entertainment will be provided by the Potomac Falls High School (PFHS) Guitar Quartet sponsored by Sand Energy. The formal program begins at 7:00 p.m. with a talk by NASA astrophysicist Dr. Michelle Thaller. Dr. Edgar B. Hatrick, III, Superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools will present the awards. Refreshments will be provided by REHAU. This event is free and open to the public.

The winning project is titled hopefully “A Future with No Landfills” and wouldn’t that be nice. The young student researchers for first place are a team of seniors: Cara Broshkevitch from the Loudoun Valley High School and Anne Richards from the Stone Bridge High School. Both also attend the Academy of Science. They will share a $500.00 first prize. Cara and Anne combined UV and thermal pretreatment with biodegradation using a combination of fungus and bacteria to develop a cost effective and safe way to dispose of high-density plastics which normally take over 100 years to degrade in our landfills. In addition to this award, these young scientists also won the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s first place and the second place “Keep Loudoun Beautiful” award.

Sanjana Kurup a senior at Broad Run High School and also from the Academy of Science is the second place winner and Jeffrey Zhang a senior at Loudoun Valley High School and the Academy of Science is the third place winner. Sanjana will receive $300.00 and Jeffrey will receive $200.00. Sanjana studied the use of microalgae to prevent estuary eutrophication while simultaneously generating a source of bio-fuels. Jeffery developed a mathematical model to describe an invasive species in the Puget sound so that he could analyze the effectiveness of various treatment methods. Mathematical modeling is used extensively by scientists and engineers because in situ experimentation is often impractical, uneconomical or even dangerous.

Sanjana also won first place in the Energy and Transportation category, and an award from the Virginia Dental Association. Jeffrey added second place in the Mathematics category, a Willowcroft Science Scholarship, and an award from the Northern Virginia Dental Society.

Alyssa Choo is awarded an Honorable Mention with the best project by a freshman. Alyssa is a student at the Stone Bridge High School. Alyssa researched the use of duckweed to leach out fertilizers, pesticides, sewage and nitrite from the burning of fossil fuels from ground water. She has plans to test the use of other plants in the future.
Alyssa also won the Aspiring Scientist Award-Environmental Management, honorable mention from the Federal Water Quality Association, and an award from the Northern Virginia Dental Society.

The monetary prizes are provided by REHAU. Once again there were many high quality research projects and it was very difficult to select winners. This special category was judged this year by Mike Maher of REHAU, Don Sandros of Sand Energy and president of Sustainable Loudoun and me, all of us representing Sustainable Loudoun.

Figure 1: Dr. Michelle Thaller, NASA

Dr. Michelle Thaller is a nationally recognized spokesperson for astronomy and science, and the Assistant Director of Science at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. Michelle has a Bachelor’s in astrophysics from Harvard, and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Michelle’s research specialized in the evolution of binary star systems, and she has used the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, as well as ground-based observatories such as Mount Palomar, Kitt Peak, and Mount Stromlo for her observations. After a post-doctoral research fellowship at Caltech, Michelle became particularly interested in public outreach and science communication.

Moving to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Michelle is now the Assistant Director of Science for Communications. She has produced and starred in several podcasts series available on iTunes and YouTube [1], and she has received the highest honors for on-line programming. Michelle has been one of the regular hosts of “The Universe,” television series on the History Channel, NatGeo’s “the Known Universe” and Discovery Channel’s “How the Universe Works.” Behind the scenes, Michelle has led efforts to develop high-quality apps for smartphones and tablets, as well as involve NASA missions with social media outlets such as FaceBook, Twitter, and Second Life. In her current role, Michelle represents all of NASA’s science themes, from Earth science and climate change, the Sun and space weather, solar system exploration, all the way out to cosmology and the deep universe. Michelle speaks to members of Congress and their staff regularly, as well as international embassy staff and internal NASA policy-makers. She continues to be inspired by the fact that NASA is a world treasure, and the universe belongs to everyone equally.

The Abstract for her talk:

Mention the word “NASA”, and what comes to mind for most people is astronauts on the Moon, or spectacular pictures of distant galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope. In fact, NASA’s most important mission may be to somewhere much closer –the planet right below your feet. NASA currently operates 13 missions that explore the Earth, from measuring algae growth in the oceans, to finding forest fires in the Amazon, to imaging the ice sheets at our poles. For 42 years now, we have produced a continuous record of what our planet looks like as a whole, seen from space. And even in that time, there have been some very obvious changes. Find out what NASA can see from our high vantage point of space, and what this may mean for the future of our world.

Dr. Hatrick is in his 21st year as Superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools. Over his 46 year career in Loudoun County he has been a high school teacher of English, high school principal, director of special education, director of instruction, supervisor of guidance and foreign languages, and assistant superintendent for pupil services.

Figure 2: The Potomac Falls High School (PFHS) Guitar Quartet

The Potomac Falls High School (PFHS) Guitar Quartet was founded in 2007 by the Director of Guitar at PFHS, Mr. Hart Wells. Since that time the quartet has been featured in performances in and around the Washington DC area, Virginia, New York City, and North Carolina. Recent engagements include concerts at the Croatian Embassy, the American Association of School Administrators, Cathedral of Saint John the Devine (NYC), Shenandoah University, James Madison University, Appalachian State University, as well as invitational performances by the Master Singers of Virginia and the Loudoun Ballet. So well-regarded that this ensemble has been asked to perform on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center this upcoming May 2nd, 2013. This performance is a part of the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts initiative and the students are very excited to represent not only PFHS but all of Loudoun County Public Schools at the event. The quartet members are senior, Joey Lehning; juniors, Maya Loncar and Tristan O’Shea; and sophomore, Maryam Hajialigol.

For more information please contact Mike Maher, Mgr. – Renewable Energies, REHAU, Inc., 1501 Edwards Ferry Rd., Leesburg, VA 20176, Website: www.rehau.com, michael.maher@rehau.com

[1] Some of Michelle Thaller YouTube lectures:

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