By Samanuel Martin, News Writer

On February 26 at EdVenture Children’s Museum, Keenan’s Biotechnical Engineering class, Juniors Ke’Aundra Jones, Tamia Morris and Samanuel Martin, won the Richland County School District One Science Fair, the first hosted in twenty years. Their teacher, Mrs. Kirstin Bullington, submitted the poster board and photo copy of the engineering notebooks on February 25 to Fair.

Generally a science fair is a forum in which contestants communicate the results of their science projects in the form of reports, display boards and models they have created. Science fairs allow students to experiment with science and technology research. Many school districts throughout the nation host science fairs to present what is being taught in the local schools.

“The judges commented on the professional appearance of the project; the investigation was interesting and one…the judges could relate to,” Ms. Tonya Smith, Secondary Science Consultant for Richland County School District One, said.

Smith said presentations were judged using a rubric similar to the regional science fair. Categories were judged based on scientific thought, creative ability, thoroughness, skill and clarity/neatness.

The title of the Keenan project was Detecting the Presence of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in cereal. GMOs are plants or animals created through genetic engineering in laboratories in order to enhance a certain trait. They are found in almost everything we eat, 70% of the foods we eat according to the Grocery Manufacturing Association.

The research was originally intended as an extension of the bioethics lessons in the Project Lead the Way curriculum for Biotech and as a hands-on activity by Bullington to give the class a better understanding of bioethics and GMOs.

“I was very proud of my students’ hard work, especially since they have to stay after school to take this course. This shows their dedication to their work and future,” Bullington said.

Juniors (from left) Tamia Morris, KeAundra Jones and Samanuel Martin display their findings for the District Science Fair.  The group won a blue ribbon in the first District Science Fair in twenty years.  Photo courtesy Mrs. Kirstin Bullington.

The group picked four different cereals, Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Organic Honey Nut Toasty O’s, to determine if they would find the presence of GMOs in the breakfast foods people eat regularly.

“We compared the DNA from the cereals to a promoter, 35s,” Jones said.

They worked for over two weeks on the project, from creating and running the electrophoresis gels to analyzing the results. It was found that all of the cereals contained GMOs, even though there were a few mishaps.

“We could have done a better job, and if we had more time we could have tested the samples that were compromised to do the break and the gels,” Morris said.

After analyzing the results, writing lab results and compiling the information in their notebooks, the students took photos of the engineering notebooks and combined them into a data notebook.

Congratulations were given to them by the faculty and staff upon returning to school on the February 27.

“Awesome!  It was an incredible job done by students who are achieving great strides in education,” Ms. Henrietta Montgomery, Dean of Students, said.

Morris was ecstatic because of the win and had even had a dream the night before that they had won.

Since this was the first science fair in twenty years, many people may be curious as to why there was such a delay in the time of the previous years’ fairs and the most recent one.

“Not many of our current science teachers were in Richland One during the period of time that we previously had a District Science Fair. At that time, all schools hosted school science fairs and winners from the school fair were submitted for the District Fair. After many years, it became obvious that an issue of equity was affecting the quality of projects that were being submitted. A moratorium was placed on the District Fair almost twenty years ago. We are excited to reinstitute the District Fair,” Smith said.