by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
The Tuscaloosa community rallied to support middle schoolers’ scientific discoveries during the 2023 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase on Jan. 28 at the Bryant Conference Center, during which the winning projects were also announced.
“It is quite inspiring to see such imagination and such learning that happened today,” said Andrea Ziegler, director of Community Education in the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We are going to continue to grow the program and want to be there to support students in their learning process.”
Now in its third year, STEM Showcase originated as a collaborative science fair for middle schoolers in the Tuscaloosa area to become more involved with STEM.
“We’re so excited about students actually doing science. That’s the whole thrust of AMSTI [The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative],” said Anna Daly, AMSTI-UA education specialist, who also serves on the planning committee for STEM Showcase. “And so, this is that application of all the learning that they’re doing, and they get to have a choice in what they research and go deep on into. It’s just so exciting for us to see science in action and the students being excited about science.”
This year, 67 middle schoolers representing the following schools participated in STEM Showcase: Eastwood Middle School, Northridge Middle School, Sipsey Valley Middle School, The Capitol School, Tuscaloosa Academy and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
To participate, 6th–8th graders submitted a project either individually or as a team that addressed the following STEM fields: biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental and earth sciences, mathematics and computer science, medicine and health science, physical sciences, behavioral and social sciences, and energy and transportation. During the showcase, participating middle schoolers received mentoring from UA faculty, staff and students in STEM disciplines before presenting their final projects to judges. Volunteer judges were UA faculty, students, and STEM community members.
“I really liked coming up with an idea on my own and then being able to execute it and then show it off to everyone,” said Rosie Zhang, winner of the medicine and health sciences category.
Parents enjoyed seeing their child learn the scientific process firsthand. “What I liked most about this was that they did it on their own,” Jade Gibson said. “My daughter did not ask me for any help with anything except for getting her supplies. For them to come up with something that was practical to our everyday lives, I thought that that was an awesome task for them.”
Winners may go on to participate in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, two special awards were given. Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu received the Microchip Award in the area of engineering or applied science. Aniketh Kalyan received the Microchip Award in the area of computer or software engineering.
Category Winners and Runners-Up
Winners in behavioral and social sciences were Silvia Hancock and Ariq Isyraqi, both of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Fanuel Tsheyae of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
The winner in biology was Markiian Shylenko of Northridge Middle School.
Winners in chemistry were Henry Bearden and Maddie Lee, both of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Kielei Whitfield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
Winners in energy and transportation were Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu, all of Northridge Middle School. Runners-up were Marichase Hamner, Caraleigh Hope and Victoria Walker, all of Sipsey Valley Middle School.
The winner in engineering was Lubaina Ahmed of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Jacob Scofield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
The winner in environmental and earth sciences was Jacob Shankman of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Ela Melouk of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
The winner in mathematics and computer science was Aeesha Mulani of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
The winner in medicine and health science was Rosie Zhang of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Laryn Word of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.
The winners in physical sciences were Jayden Yoon and Jackson York, both of Northridge Middle School. The runners-up were Jireh Gibson, Shaniyah Holifield and Ty’Leah Parks, all of Eastwood Middle School.