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Young scientists sweep ACT-SO

Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by for ACT-SO, Media.

For the first time, Midwood High School entered the New York City Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) and won a medal in each of the five categories: STEM, humanities, performing arts, fine arts, and business. This year's ACT-SO awards were announced on Monday, May 7, at St. Francis College in Downtown Brooklyn.

Previously known as the "Olympics of the Mind," ACT-SO is a youth program of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Its goal is to give recognition to students who demonstrate academic, scientific, and artistic achievement. Those who participate in the competition must enter in a project under the five categories.

The winners received medals and cash awards starting at $300.

"This year's competition was great," said Mr. Glenn Elert, a physics and research teacher here at Midwood. "We did really well."

He and Ms. Susan Katzoff, a chemistry and research teacher, served as mentors and offered the students help with their posters, presentation skills, and paperwork.

While only 15 students entered the competition, Midwood won a total of 16 medals: five gold, three silver, and eight bronze. Those who won gold, such as Rana Mohamed '19, Kiandra Peart '19, and Calvin Huynh '18, will be going on to participate in Nationals this July. It will be a three day event taking place at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas where they will be competing against over 8,000 students from other states.

"I am extremely excited for Nationals because it'll be a new experience and I will get the opportunity to meet people from all over the country who are also researching and doing amazing things," said Mohamed.

Kiandra Peart
Kiandra Peart and her entrepreneurship project "Kustoms by Ki".

Peart earned the most medals: a gold in Entrepreneurship for her self-made business Kustoms By Ki, another gold in Poetry for her piece titled "The Nation", and a bronze medal in sculpture.

For Peart's independent business, Kustoms By Ki, she customizes various things such as sneakers, wallets, and purses. To enter this project into the competition, she had to create an 18 page business plan to show marketing strategies such as inventory, cash flow, and two year projections. She then presented the display of her work to a judge who graded her on her content.

"I know the competition will be tougher, but I'm ready for it," said Peart. "Going to Nationals makes me feel like all my hard work paid off."

Mohamed brought home a gold in Engineering for her project of decreasing the energy consumption within a robotic system with the implementation of an energy monitoring system. She used two types of robotic systems: a two degree of freedom robotic arm that she varied the voltage and frequency on to see how those conditions affected the energy consumption, and a passive walker that she will use to vary the stop length and step frequency to see how those conditions also affect the energy consumption.

"Winning gold was very rewarding because I felt recognized for all my hard work," said Mohamed. "I worked on my research for over ten months."

Huynh entered his project, "Conditions that promote the sub-cellular migration of nucleolin (NCL) to the cell surface," under the category of Microbiology. The nucleolin is a protein that migrates to the cell surface in cases of cancer, HIV, and infection. In his project, he tried to find the mechanisms that were responsible for allowing the protein (nucleolin) to migrate. He found that only full-length, non-cleaved variations of the protein are allowed to migrate to the cell surface.

"I'm excited to be going to Nationals in Texas and I'm proud to represent NYC Microbiology," said Huynh. "But I'm also a bit nervous because I know that competitions on the National level are notoriously difficult."

Still group photo
2018 ACT-SO Gold Medallists: Kiandra Peart, Calvin Huynh, and Saba Iqbal on the far right.

As he conducted this research, he was supervised by Dr. Anjana D. Saxena in the Department of Biology at Brooklyn College.

"Winning gold was great because it really was a chance for me to gain some recognition for my research," Huynh added.

Saba Iqbal '18 won a gold medal in the Earth & Space science category for her project on indicating an atmospheric mercury pollution source using moss as a biomonitor. She conducted her project at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she began to intern for her research project around November of 2016. There, her research mentor, Dr. Erin Mann, helped her throughout the two years she was there and made sure everything went smoothly.

"I honestly didn't think I would win because there were so many other great projects there as well," said Iqbal. "Nevertheless, I was really happy."

Although Iqbal received first prize, she will not be attending Nationals due to college orientations and summer classes.

"I'd like more people to participate next year," said Mr. Elert. "Anyone should enter."

Written by Mohima Oishe and Pretee Amin (Class of 2019).
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of Argus.