Three Students Earn Honors at the D.C. STEM Fair

Posted: March 17, 2017

Anne Elizabeth Barr ’18, Sofia Flynn ’19, and Victoria Foley ’19 each earned multiple honors at the D.C. STEM Fair for their projects on biofuel, encryption, and a health, respectively. All three worked with Science Fair Moderator Que Haralson to perfect their extracurricular projects throughout the year.

For her project, “From Green Scum to Green Earth: Extracting Oil from Algae for the Creation of Biofuel,” Anne Elizabeth won second place in the environmental engineering category. She earned first place from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Award and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (DC Chapter). In addition, she received the following special awards: the Clean Air Partners Quality and Climate Change Award, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Award, Aerospace Corporation’s Robert H. Herndon Regional Science Competition Award, Geological Society of Washington Award, and MIT Club of Washington, D.C. Award.

Through the hexane solvent method, Anne Elizabeth extracted oil from algae. She imagines this oil can replace fossil fuel use, which has detrimental effects on the environment. “I chose this project because I believe that climate change and its repercussions not only pose a threat to biodiversity and ecosystems around the world; they also pose a threat to human rights,” says Anne Elizabeth. “Due to climate change and the natural disasters that it causes, there have been increases in displacement of impoverished peoples, as well as an increase in diseases such as malaria, making it a Catholic social justice issue. The use of biofuels instead of fossil fuels could help reduce the effects of climate change and save lives.”

For her app about RSA encryption, Sofia won first place in in the system software category, sponsored by the Washington Post. She also earned the Aerospace Corporation’s Robert H Herndon Regional Science Competition Award, fifth place by the American Meteorological Society of D.C., and an award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Her project was titled “RSA, you say? Creating an app capable of generating values of public and private keys as well as encrypting and decrypting ciphertext messages based on two prime number inputs using the foundational principles of asymmetric key RSA encryption."

Sofia became interested in RSA encryption in her freshman geometry class when it was on a list of mathematical topics to research. She developed a basic understanding and decided to pursue the topic further via the science fair. “With Mr. Haralson's guidance, I decided to create an app based off of the algorithm that would assist in teaching people about RSA encryption. After a lot of frustrated attempts and spending many free periods working on my coding with Mr. Haralson, I was able to develop an app based off of the RSA encryption algorithm.”

For her app “Fit Happens,” Victoria was awarded first place in the biomedical and health sciences category. She was also recognized with the U.S. Public Health Service Award. Fit Happens educates teen girls about food groups and helps them create balanced meals. The app also calculates Body Mass Index, screens for signs of eating disorders and depression, and helps girls learn about their health.

“I created this app because I felt there was a lot of false information online for girls about dieting,” says Victoria. “Being able to give girls access to factual information that would create healthy eating habits felt necessary in an age where girls lack the right knowledge about what they are consuming.”

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