Students Compete in Science: WESEF

By Julia Barnett

Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The elderly. The effects of snake venom on neurons. The endocannabinoid system. Concussions. These are some of the amazing topics that students studied in science research programs around Westchester County. On March 17th, these students congregated at Sleepy Hollow High School to compete in the Westchester Science & Engineering Fair, commonly known as WESEF. The categories in this competition cover various topics, ranging from Animal Sciences to Physics and Astronomy. The top WESEF winners advance to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) where they compete against students from more than 75 different countries for a total of 4 million dollars in prize money.

All of the seniors in the Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program attended the competition and had the opportunity to show off their hard work and passion for their topics. In order to compete in WESEF, students need to have a completed research project with coherent results. Most of the students in our program have worked with experts in their fields at research institutions across the country such as Harvard, Stanford, and Mount Sinai. After submitting their final research papers to Regeneron in the fall, students present their entire whole study on a poster for the WESEF competition. At the competition, the students give a one on one presentation to five judges. These presentations usually last seven minutes each with a five minute Q & A session afterward.

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Senior Stella photographed with her poster (Photo by Stephanie Greenwald).

In order to prepare for the competition, seniors had to practice their posters several times in front of their teachers and peers. Science Research director Stephanie Greenwald explains that “Students critique each other’s work by scrupulously inspecting posters before the final printing, hunting for typos and other errors that might make our posters less than perfect.” Teachers such as Dr. Beeken, Mr. Borneman, Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Gulick, and former Science research teacher Mrs. Bongaarts give students their valuable advice. One opportunity seniors had to present was at the senior showcase, which was held during school. Mrs. Greenwald believes the showcase was, “a huge success and will definitely continue next year. The feedback from teachers was great and I think it really helped to inspire the incoming freshmen”.

The day before the competition, the students were responsible for bringing their posters to Sleepy Hollow and setting up. The next day, the students were judged from 10 am to 3 pm. Then, there was a public viewing session for parents and teachers to see the posters and ask questions. Finally, there was an award ceremony that started at 7 pm.
Lily Moss, a senior, said she had a “fun experience” at the competition. She also said that she “learned how to present more calmly in front of professionals.” Lily spent this past summer studying Canine Compulsive Disorder with her mentor at the University of Pennsylvania.

WESEF is a very worthwhile and informative day for all teachers, students, parents, and judges. It is an opportunity for students to practice their speaking skills while simultaneously presenting their hard work. While the day was very long, the skills that one can learn at a competition like WESEF are invaluable. Byram Hills did very well at the competition, and the whole program is extremely proud of the many senior accomplishments. Mrs. Greenwald explains how she is not surprised with Byram Hills’ success as she sees “the hard work, effort, and passion from ASR students every single day.” The science research program is excited to see many more successful WESEF competitions in the future!

Read below to see some of the major awards given Byram Hills students!

American Psychological Association: Cooper Gray
ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiative: Dylan Mack
Mu Alpha Theta Award: Brett Stafford
NASA Earth System Science Award: Alexandra Remnitz
Innovations in Biological Sciences Research Award: Dana D’onofrio
Innovations in Biological Sciences Research Award: Lindsey Steeg
Office of Naval Research: Joshua Piecyck
The Walter Kass Memorial Award for Excellence in Behavioral Science: Sophie Winston