AC School, Students Win Awards at Terra Regional Science Fair

Posted on March 21st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia won the Terra School Award at Terra Science and Education’s Rochester Finger Lakes Regional Science and Engineering Fair (TRFSEF) hosted by Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC). Thirteen AC students also received recognitions at the event, including the right to advance to higher-level competitions.

Sixteen AC Middle and Upper School students submitted 11 projects, the most of any participating school, which resulted in the award that comes with a check for $2,000 for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives. The students packed up their AC Innovation Day Science Fair projects and took the displays the next morning to RMSC. After setting up their projects and passing a Display and Safety check (science can be “messy”, after all), the students went to a lunch keynote address by Maria G. Korsnick, President/CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“Science Fair is inspiring and invigorating, because all these students are excited about science, every student, from fifth graders who are doing behavior projects with their cats and a dog to senior research projects that have to do with cancer diagnosis and research and machine learning, really high-end stuff,” said Maya Crosby, Director of the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation, and Director-in-Training for TRFSEF. “But everybody who is here is excited about their project and can’t wait to talk about it with the judges who are coming around. That curiosity all packaged in one room is really inspiring; that’s the great part.”

AC fifth-graders Heidi Duran and Gillian Feindel won an Honors Commendation and the Helmer Volunteer Award for True Potential.

From noon to 2:00 p.m., students stood by their posters for judging, with some having to explain their project four or five or more times for different judges. While the judges deliberated, students could enjoy the museum exhibits before the public showing from 4:00-5:00, followed by the awards ceremony.

“I worked with Gillian Feindel on ‘Why do most pets act like other animals?'” fifth-grader Heidi Duran said about working with her friend and classmate. “Gillian’s pet dog acts like a cat in many ways. He plays with cat toys, eats cat treats, and snuggles cat stuffed animals. Also, Gillian’s pet cat acts like a human in every way. He eats watermelon and edamame. Another strange thing is that he sits on his behind, while most cats sit on their hind legs. Finally, he sits at the dinner table in his own chair, with the occasional cat plate. We created a survey, compared the brain parts, organized data, and we still haven’t found the answer to our driving question, but we are still persevering to find our conclusion.”

Seventh-graders Julianna Thornburg and Olivia Caschette won an Honors Commendation for their planaria regeneration experiments

Seventh-graders Olivia Caschett, Julianna Thornburg, and Elena Korte conducted experiments on planarian regeneration. “We cut them in different ways, and within a week they automatically restored their missing body parts wholly,” Olivia recalled. “During this time, we also fed them, cleaned their petri dishes, and did daily research on the topic.

“AC has, without a doubt, supported and nurtured my passion for science for a long time, ever since I’ve been attending the school. They offer hands-on experiments, engaging class lectures, and even occasional field trips to professional facilities. I’m surprised that it’s become my favorite subject, when originally I didn’t even like it (loathed it, really.)”
– Olivia Caschette, seventh-grader

AC sophomore Jong Won “Tom” Park, who won awards for his project, Integration of Recurrent Neural Network into Technical Analyses of Investments, really enjoyed talking about his work. “I was inspired by a student who graduated from AC last year; his name is Tony. He was working on a project with a professor in China about identifying lung cancer in human bodies with machine learning. He opened the way for me, introduced me to machine learning a little more. And then I started studying it more. This past February, I was talking to my dad about the stock market. I was already working on a project that potentially predicts the future price of the stock market, and we talked about how we can develop that. I said, ‘What if I include machine learning in this technique to make this better and more sophisticated?’ He said, ‘Why not?’, and that’s how I started working on this project.

Tom Park, a sophomore, won Highest Honors and the M.E. Wood & Associates Mathematics Award for his neural network project.

“It basically involves using machine learning and a recurrent neural network that consumes information like an actual human brain to predict the future price of the stock market in 5 minutes. The biggest challenge that I faced was learning how to do it without help from anyone besides Googling everything. I spent about 6 hours a day for 4 days learning about machine learning. On the first 2 days it was really complicated, but as I studied more into the mathematical part of machine learning, it kind of helped me a lot.”

“The second challenge,” Tom said, “was time management. I didn’t have much time before the science fair. I had to build the whole model in 2 days, and I actually did it in a day, the day before the AC science fair. It was pretty fun and challenging, and I didn’t get enough sleep, but that’s not unusual for me.”

He continued, “To be recognized for my project and getting awards, it means people appreciate what I’m doing. When I talk to people who come to my poster and want to know more about it, it’s really fun to tell them all this information and share this knowledge. Then they share back what they know and what they think about the project and what feedback they have about the project. So I really appreciate being recognized for it and people coming to see my work and learning something new from it.”

“The next step for me is to expand my experience with machine learning first, and then building more on top of this project to include more factors of the stock market into this machine learning model so it can predict the future price in a more accurate and professional manner. This is my long-term goal, to build models where it can trade by itself, and I can just stay home, watch Netflix, and move to different houses every year,” Park said, not necessarily joking.

Jake Crane, in seventh grade, won High Honors for his project on flammability of household objects.

Jake Crane, a seventh-grader, received a High Honors Commendation. “Our science project is on the flammability of different household items. Following our tests, we concluded that many household items are flammable. Knowing what these items are and understanding why they are flammable is crucial to safety. Hopefully, this science project will help determine what not to put near an open flame, and prevent disaster. With this experience, I now know what I should do in future science fairs and will apply this knowledge to make even better science projects for the future.”

This regional competition included participants from 9 counties: Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, and Yates. One Grand Award champion, Jerry Hou from Corning-Painted Post High School, with “Detection of Lung Cancer Biomarkers: A Catalytic Assay Strategy Based on Gold Alloy Nanoparticles”, was selected to go on to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is featured in Science Fair, the National Geographic documentary shown at AC in February. Noah Levine and Tom Park will have an opportunity to advance through their participation in the New York State Science Congress on June 8th in Syracuse.

“AC taught us to be who we are today, and has inspired us to be our best selves,” concluded fifth-grader Heidi. “It means A LOT to my partner Gillian and me to be recognized, especially since we were the only fifth grade team from our school that participated in the fair. We won two awards, and that means so much to both of us. We are hoping to do the science fair next year, when we are in middle school.”

Allendale Columbia TRFSEF Award Winners

American Psychological Association Award

  • Noah Levine ’19: Efficacy of therapeutical content for children with autism

Women in Technology Innovation Award

  • Mary Cotter ’22, Liza Cotter ’20: Is My Cat Overweight? – Using Neural Networks to Improve the Health of Your Pet

Helmer Volunteer Award for True Potential

  • Gillian Feindel ’26, Heidi Duran ’26: Why do most pets act like other animals?

Mu Alpha Theta Award

  • James Morrell ’19: Categorizing Manufacturing and Voicing Differences in Pianos of Similar Make and Model

M.E. Wood & Associates Mathematics Award

  • Jong Won “Tom” Park ’21: Integration of Recurrent Neural Network into Technical Analyses of Investments

Yale Science & Engineering Assoc, Inc. Award

  • James Morrell ’19: Categorizing Manufacturing and Voicing Differences in Pianos of Similar Make and Model

Honors Commendations

  • Gillian Feindel ’26, Heidi Duran ’26: Why do most pets act like other animals?
  • Marcus Frassetto ’24, Vance Osness ’24: Liquid Sand
  • Julianna Thornburg ’24, Olivia Caschette ’24: The Regeneration Planarians

High Honors Commendation

  • Jake Crane ’24: Flammability of Objects
  • Gwendolyn Bains ’25: Rainbow Fire

Highest Honors Commendation

  • Noah Levine ’19: Efficacy of therapeutical content for children with autism
  • James Morrell ’19: Categorizing Manufacturing and Voicing Differences in Pianos of Similar Make and Model
  • Jong Won “Tom” Park ’21: Integration of Recurrent Neural Network into Technical Analyses of Investments

Advancement to New York State Science Congress

  • Noah Levine ’19: Efficacy of therapeutical content for children with autism
  • Jong Won “Tom” Park ’21: Integration of Recurrent Neural Network into Technical Analyses of Investments


John Palomaki

John Palomaki

John is a parent of twin boys in Middle School at AC, an active volunteer, and occasional contributor of stories and photos. John spent a stimulating 10 years at Microsoft through the 90s as a systems engineer and managing executive relations programs. Since then, John has worked with non-profit organizations and has held leadership roles in independent schools in New Jersey and Connecticut in development, communications, and technology. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences (Biology) from Colgate University.
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