The late Janice D. Mele would have been proud of what was happening inside the Johnston High School library, which was recently named in her honor and memory.
Johnston Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo would quickly remind people that Mele – who chaired the town’s School Committee for 13 years – was a “champion of education who loved to hear and see students excel at the highest levels.”
That’s exactly what 119 JHS students did last week when they set up highly impressive homemade projects inside the library, where the annual Science Fair was held for the first time.
“Our students again did an awesome job with their projects,” said Greg Russo, who chairs the JHS Chemistry Department. “Each honor student is required to complete a project but other students may elect to participate as well.”
In recent years, the Science Fair was held in the school cafeteria, but as Emily Ruggiero, a Spanish and Italian teacher at JHS, offered while judging senior Gabriella Athaide’s “Satellite Blood Splatter” project: “There’s a nice cozy atmosphere here.”
Thus, in addition to producing a science project, students must also make a formal class presentation during which they are questioned by both their peers and teachers on procedure, data, acquisition and conclusion drawn from their experimentations.
“Students must also reflect on their project and identify the school-wide expectations that are met by their research,” Russo said. “Project work is then counted as 20 percent of the third-quarter grade.”
All 119 projects, which featured impressive titles, content and extraordinary displays that were mounted on special two-folded, three-panel cardboard, were judged by various JHS faculty members – all of whom were tremendously impressed with each student’s work.
The fair featured such topics like sophomore Janet Clements’ “How Much Fat is in Your Food” and junior James Ward’s “Major League Science,” which explained the various temperatures on sports playing fields.
A total of 28 students took home awards, including first-, second- and third-place finishes and honorable mentions. Six projects were named best in as many different categories.
Kayla Aquilante, a junior, landed one of six first-place finishes. Her project, “Lethal Limit,” was voted the best biology project, and she tested the effects of a nitrogen-based fertilizer on the mortality rate of a sensitive organism known as Daphnia Magna.
Students that also landed a first-place award and their respective project titles were junior Grace Centracchio for “‘C’ the Difference;” senior Lucca Madeo Cortarelli for “Glowstick Experiment”; junior Maxwell El Hage for “Flywheel Efficiency”; senior Carlos Fragoso for “Rollin’ into the Future”; and junior Nicholas Petrillo for “Temperature vs. Dental Erosion.”
Petrillo, who is the Student Council president, was one of two JHS leaders who entered impressive projects. The other was Sarah Monahan, also a junior who is president of SADD, whose “Smokin’ Hot” entry measured the smoke point in cooking oils.
Sophomore Emily Patenaude’s “A Delightful Alternative” was chosen as the best chemistry project, while El Hage took home the best physical science project award.
Emily Iannuccilli, yet another sophomore who landed honors, won the best backboard award for her project, which was titled “Chill Out!” and involved experimenting with the chemistry of cold packs.
The prestigious most creative award went to freshman James Guilmette for his “Friction Frenzy” project. Junior Audry Mahony won the award for best data collection by way of her “Flour Power” project, which also won a second-place ribbon.
Second-place honors also went to Jenni Aubin, Emily Patenaude, Megan Philbrick and Kasem Sasa. Winning third-place ribbons were Samantha Gobeille, MacKenzie Hanna, Jacob Miller, Mia Ragosta, Madison Turcotte and Hailey Weedon. Honorable mentions went to Mohammed Abaherah, Ayomide Olagundoye, Ava Palma and Tyler Renaud.