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Kauai students go big at state science fair

LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i’s volunteer science fair coordinator announced that middle and high school students took home a record number of awards at the state science fair earlier this month, with one high school senior winning a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

“It’s more than we’ve ever seen,” said Dan Matthews, the volunteer coordinator for the Kaua‘i Regional Science and Engineering Fair, of the 26 awards won by Kaua‘i students at this year’s Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair held on April 5 and April 6 at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall in Honolulu.

The awards tally was a major improvement from a previous state science fair.

“To go from one to 26 in three years time is pretty amazing. Kids are doing pretty good work,” said Matthews, who has been the coordinator for the past four years and is a retired Kaua‘i High School science teacher.

Jaxyn Cable-Treadwell, a 17-year-old senior at Kaua‘i High School, took home the biggest prize — the scholarship from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa presented by the University of Hawai‘i Foundation. Cable-Treadwell also won best chemistry project in the Senior Division, which also came with a $100 cash award.

“It feels amazing. I’m really honored to be the one that they selected,” said Cable-Treadwell, on being the only person to earn the full-tuition scholarship.

Cable-Treadwell explained that he won the scholarship for his project, “Creating Perfusable Tissue Scaffolds from Deceullularized Plant Leaves,” where he conducted experiments on spinach leaves to make skin grafts for internal organs.

He also said he had a 15-minute conversation with a University of Hawai‘i Foundation representative.

“We were just talking about future plans, financials, and really what I had planned for college,” said Cable-Treadwell.

He plans on majoring in biochemistry at the UH-Manoa, with the ultimate goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

It was Cable-Treadwell’s first time participating in a science fair, and he called it “a really good experience.” He said that his biggest advisers were Matthews and Kevin Johnson, a current Kaua‘i High School science teacher.

“They guided me during data collection. They lent me the resources I needed because they were very expensive to purchase,” said Cable-Treadwell. “They’re both from my school. So, it was very easy to get those materials together.”

He also said that doctors at Wilcox Medical Center provided “expert advice” on tissue scaffolds and grafts. Cable-Treadwell also noted that Kaua‘i students collaborated with one another on their projects.

“All the Kaua‘i students we’re working together,” he said.

“We’re all really on the same team, backing each other up and giving each other support. Especially the night before, all going over our presentations with each other, giving each other feedback,” said Cable-Treadwell.

It’s the second straight year a Kaua‘i high school student has won the award. Last year, the full-tuition scholarship went to Kylan Takakusagi of Waimea High School, who is now a student at UH-Manoa.

Cable-Treadwell is now heading to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, which runs from May 14 to May 19 in Dallas.

Lauryn Hashimoto, another Kaua‘i High School student, will also attend for her project, “Lure Comparison for Capturing Male Culex Mosquitoes,” which won third place in the animal sciences senior division at the state level. According to the Regeneron ISEF website, the fair is the largest pre-college STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) competition in the world.

Matthews also noted three younger Kaua‘i students all qualified for a nationwide competition: St. Theresa School sixth grader Lily Santiago and eighth grader Denali Chun and Island School eighth grader Sadie Stiglmeier can now compete in the upcoming Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge.

Matthews described it as “the nation’s premier science fair competition for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.”

Matthews is hopeful about continuing to see Kaua‘i students reach more success in the science field.

“It’s one of the things that I think is really important is teaching kids how to go and do this kind of work,” said Matthews, adding that working as a coordinator is “very rewarding.”

Matthews said board members have been telling him that Kaua‘i science projects are “better than they’ve ever seen before,” which has resulted in more prizes being won.

He also said the number of students getting involved on Kaua‘i has “gone way up” in recent years.

“We just keep looking to expand and include more kids because the skills that we’re teaching, I think are lifetime skills,” said Matthews.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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