ASMSA’s science fair winners move on to state, international competition

Originally Published March 7, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
Updated March 7, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

The awards ceremony for the West Central Regional Science Fair was held at First Presbyterian Church across Whittington Avenue from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.

Two seniors at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts will get the chance to show off their science skills at the international level after winning overall honors at their school’s science fair.

ASMSA hosted its annual science fair on Feb. 28 and Friday, and the winners’ projects explored topics in computer science and biology.

Bryan Koch, a senior from Harrison, took first place overall with the online integrated development environment he created.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Koch said.

His project is a tool that would be used by computer programmers to write programs in an easier way.

“It’s an assortment of other tools that makes it easier to use all the other tools [for writing a program],” Koch said. “It’s targeted to school web servers. That way, if the schools don’t have the IT support to install an integrated development environment on every computer, they can install it on their Web server so everyone can get to it.”

The top winners are chosen from the individual winners in the 17 categories of projects in which the students can compete.

Koch was the winner in the Computer Science category. After graduating, he plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to pursue a degree in computer science.

The first- and second-place overall winners at ASMSA are given the opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 12-17.

Clayton Davis, a senior from Hot Springs, took second place overall for his demonstration of chaos theory in the Physics and Astronomy category.

Davis developed a physical model to demonstrate the theory to explain the application of mathematics to everyday life. Davis said he developed the model after he began researching chaos theory.

“When I first looked at [the theory], it was extremely confusing to me to try to research it,” Davis said. “I could see how if I had this [physical] example when I first researched it, it would have been a lot easier to understand.”

Mehr Shah, a senior from Little Rock, and Alyson Decoux, a senior from Mena, received third and fourth places, respectively.

Shah’s research focused on the effects of a new drug to target liver-cancer cells, and Decoux’s project was a design for monsoon resistant housing in areas such as Southeast Asia.

Brian Monson, head of the science department at ASMSA, said this year’s science fair was very competitive.

“The judges had a hard time choosing in all of the categories,” Monson said.

Monson said students who participate in the science fair have to make posters summarizing their research, along with writing papers describing the research.

“The judges read those

papers, see the posters and look through [the students’] laboratory notebooks,” Monson said. “After they’ve done all of that, they use that to formulate questions, then interview [the students] about their research.”

Monson said a large part

of selecting the winners is based on how well the students can explain their research.

The first-, second- and third-place winners in each of the 17 categories are presented with the opportunity to compete at the state level in the Southwestern Energy Arkansas Science and Engineering Fair at the University of Central Arkansas at the end of March. The first- and second-place overall winners at the state competition will then be given the opportunity to compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

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