Students compete at Manual Regional Science Fair


Amanda Tu

Manual held its regional science fair on Saturday, March 15 at the University of Louisville.

Five projects, presented by Akanksha Gupta (10, MST); Harsha Paladugu (10, MST); Mukund Venkatakrishnan (10, MST); Divija Sharma (11, MST); and the team of Matthew Raj (10, MST), Madan Subheeswar (11, MST) and Richard Gunasena (11, MST), earned a spot at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Forty-one Manual students will be advancing to the state competition on March 28 at Eastern Kentucky University. These students will have the opportunity to compete again for a spot at ISEF. A complete list of science fair winners can be viewed here.

Students competed in one of 20 groups based on their project’s scientific discipline. Parents and teachers evaluated the research in a two-round selection process. In the first tier, a set of judges scored each student in a given category, selecting the top two in each group for the state fair. In the second tier, the top projects were divided into two “supercategories”–Life Sciences and Physical Sciences–from which the judges selected the ISEF qualifiers.

Manual students previously competed in the Louisville Regional Science and Engineering Fair, but they have participated in a school-wide fair for the past several years because they overwhelmed Louisville’s cohort of state qualifiers.

Paladugu, one of the students who will be competing at ISEF in May, tested the effects of a gut metabolite on colorectal cancer. He said that passion is a key element of a prize-winning science fair project.

“There are a lot of ways to do a good project and hopefully make it to ISEF,” Paladugu said. “The main element that I find that ties a lot of quality projects together is passion and hard work. Never be afraid to question any aspect of what you have done or will do and what that means. Also be prepared to work hard; hard work pays off.”

Sharma, who researched the effects of arsenic on the cardiovascular system, was surprised to be selected for ISEF.

“When my brother was at Manual, he worked so hard for ISEF every year,” Sharma said. “He spent hours doing research at the James Brown Cancer Center and his goal was ISEF in the end. Sadly enough, he never got that opportunity. After seeing him work so hard for ISEF, I didn’t think I would have a chance. However, I gave it my best shot. I was so so happy and my brother was even happier.”