Allison Wolfe, left, and Ella King won the Genzyme Award at the Region 1 Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday. For more photos, see the slideshow.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Eighth-graders Ella King and Allison Wolfe didn't meet each other until February when they started to work together for their Region 1 Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair project.
King and Wolfe didn't even go to the same school or live in the same town — King lives in Lenox while Wolfe resides in Pittsfield. Neither of their schools were in the competition.
But King, of Lenox Memorial Middle School, and Wolfe, a student at Herberg Middle School, took the initiative as an independent group to produce their project, which separated plant pigments using a technique called paper chromatography.
Their months of research and work paid off on Saturday at the fair held at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Amsler Campus Center gymnasium when they received the Genzyme Award
and a spot at the state science fair on June 1 at Worcester Technical High School.
"I really like science," King said. "It'll be something I'll be doing for my whole life."
Mike Testa, a judge at the fair and a physics major at MCLA, said he was really impressed by the girls' effort and knowledge.
"They knew way more than I expected and I didn't have any questions they couldn't answer," Testa said. "I expect them to do really well at states. I was just impressed at how motivated these girls are at such a young age and how much they love science."
The two girls entered the fair independently of their schools and later contacted a Berkshire Community College professor to ask permission to use a lab for a day.
A.J. Morrissette receives his first-place ribbon and certificate.
The fair featured about 160 different projects from schools from Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties. Forty-two projects were selected to advance to the state fair.
Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School pupil A.J. Morrissette shared first-place honors with his project, "Waste to Wattage, the Journey of a Microbial Fuel Cell." In that project, the eighth-grader converted waste into electricity. Although he said does not intend to enter future science fairs, he plans on attending the University of Connecticut to study brain biology.
Yvonne Spicer, the vice president of advocacy and educational partnerships at the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science in Boston, was the keynote speaker at the event. She stressed the importance and demand for more engineers, and encouraged all the students to pursue STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields.
"Everything you touch, see and breathe is some form of science, technology or engineering," Spicer said to the gymnasium packed with students and parents.