Students Show Off Projects at Region 1 Science Fair

By John DurkaniBerkshires.com Staff
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Taconic senior Aliza Ahlen qualified for the Massachusetts Biogenius Challenge with her project. For more photos, see the slideshow.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Projects ranged from honey-based antibiotics to snowboard physics all the way down to sink holes at the 9th annual Region 1 Science Fair at Massachusetts College Liberal Arts on Thursday afternoon.

The fair, which saw about 80 students and around 60 projects, pitted students from nine schools — four from Berkshire County — for two available first-place awards and a trip to Phoenix, Ariz., for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. Twelve Forty other students qualified for the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair.
 
"This is tremendous to see the room full of you here today and we're proud of what you have done," said Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs at MCLA, also noting that the judges were "absolutely amazed."
 
Westfield High School took both first-place awards. Shannon Boley, a senior, won for her project "Effects of an Administrator's Prosody on Autistic Children" while seniors Dillon Sienko's and Patrick Monette's "Effects of Organically Enriched Soil on Tagetes Tenuifolia Development."
 
In addition to the state and international fairs, Boley qualified for the Massachusetts Biogenius Challenge. Taconic senior Aliza Ahlen also qualified with her project, "Honey; the Antibiotic." Ahlen's project examined the effectiveness of various honey types, as well as solutions, as an antibiotic. She concluded that raw honey was the best.
 
Some students focused their personal hobbies and interests into their projects. Michael Perkins, a student at Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School and avid snowboarder who works at Bousquet Ski Resort in Pittsfield, studied differences in snowboard friction in comparison to weight and snowboard size.
 
A different project, done by BArT sophomore Jeannette Lambert, explored the science behind sink holes. Lambert said she thought of the topic before the media craze about the Florida man who was swallowed by one in his home earlier this month.
 
"It's a real problem that's happening," Lambert said.
 

BArT sophomore Jeannette Lambert shows her sink holes project to classmates.

Lambert is looking forward to expanding her project next year to a larger, 5-gallon bucket scale, an upgrade from the 8-ounce cups used this year.
 
A lot of students were looking forward to college as well. Ahlen has been accepted to University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is awaiting results from Cornell University and Smith College. Monette is shooting for the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and Sienko wants to study astrophysics with Harvard, Columbia and Dartmouth as three of his potential schools.
 
"All of these lessons and skills are important to your future no matter which career path or educational goal you have," said Kristen Pearson, co-chairman of the fair's planning committee.
 
Christopher Hines, STEM program manager at MCLA and co-chairman of the fair's planning board, hopes to expand on the fair in the future.
 
"One of the things we're trying to do is have more schools and students here," said Hines.
 
Also, keynote speaker Pat Muraca, president and chief executive officer at Nuclea Biotechnologies of Pittsfield, was absent because of a rescheduling conflict. The fair was originally scheduled for Friday, March 8, but was canceled after the area was hit by a snowstorm.

Tags: awards,   science fair,   STEM,   

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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