Students Show Spirit in Herndon Competition

by Gail Kellner
posted June 27, 2012

Students from each school explained their experiments to a panel of judges.

Middle and high school students demonstrated their well-rehearsed science experiments to Aerospace and Space and Missile Systems Center employees June 7 in the A5-A8 courtyard at the 35th Annual Robert H. Herndon Memorial Science Competition in El Segundo. A Herndon competition was also conducted earlier in Chantilly on April 19.

A Renewable Energy Source for the Third World, the Efficacy of Electrokinetic Remediation of Soil, and Assessment of Performance and Emissions of Diesel Engines Using Vegetable Oils were just a few of the experiments that were demonstrated by seven high schools and five middle schools In El Segundo. Chantilly’s event hosted 20 high school students and 15 middle school students.

The students rehearsed their demonstrations vigorously, polishing up their presentations right up to the last minute before the team of judges reached their booths. Their enthusiasm was evident as they practiced answering sample questions in rapid-fire succession in an effort to be at the top of their game.

Mary Herndon was on hand for the day’s events, as she is every year, to help support the event named after her husband, Robert H. Herndon, an inspirational Aerospace scientist, engineer, mentor, and humanitarian, who died in 1976.

Both coasts had keynote speakers. At the Chantilly event, Dr. Thomas Kashangaki, senior project engineer, Project Development Office, delivered a motivating talk to the budding engineers and scientists in which he discussed growing up in Kenya, his time at the University of Michigan, his time with NASA, and his job here at Aerospace.

Dr. Leslie Wickman, senior engineering specialist, Space Architecture Department, addressed the El Segundo students, their teachers, and employees at the afternoon awards presentation. She discussed some of the details of testing a spacesuit before an astronaut can go into orbit and she also shared her longtime goal of being an astronaut.

Although Wickman’s background was packed with accomplishments and experiences that most would be envious of, her advice to the students was quite simple.

“Find your niche,” she said. “Develop your strengths and work on your weakness; make the most of every opportunity that comes your way; take responsibility for yourself and your actions; be kind and respectful toward others; and follow your dreams.”

El Segundo Winners

High School Experiment:

• Sun Valley High School, first place
• Mira Costa High School, second place
• Morningside High School, third place

Middle School Experiment:

• Dana Middle School, first place
• Monroe Middle School, second place
• Robert Peary Middle School, third place

High School Essay:

• Gema, Rodriquez, Compton High School, first place, “The Disappearing Necessity: Water, and its Future”
• Adrian Araujo, Morningside High School, second place, “Graphene, The Future”

Middle School Essay:

• Yong Woo Cho, Bert Lynn Middle School, first place, “Pure Water”
• Mahika Lunkar, Bert Lynn Middle School, second place, “Robotics in Medicine”

Chantilly Winners, presented in April

High School Experiment:

• Kristin Houser, Georgetown Visitation High School, Washington, D.C, first place
• Adithya Saikunar, Briar Woods High School, Loudoun County, Va., second place

Middle School Experiment:

• Dominick Hogans, Washington Latin Public School, Washington, D.C, first place
• John Lathrop, Takoma Park Middle School, Montgomery County, Md., second place

High School Essay:

• Priya Venkatraman, Briar Woods High School, Loudoun County, Va., first place
• Catherine Chantre, Briar Woods High School, Loudoun County, Va., second place
• Evan Horne, Montgomery Blair High School, Montgomery County, Md., third place

Middle School Essay:

• Christine Joseph, Washington Irving Middle School, Fairfax County, Va., first place
• Sharon Jose, Washington Irving Middle School, Fairfax County, Va., second place
• Morsal Mohamad, J. Michael Lunsford Middle School, Fairfax County, Va., third place