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Wisconsin Science Talent Search
Winners for 2003 Announced

 MAILED:  May 7, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - The winners of the 2003 Wisconsin Science Talent Search, headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, were announced April 29. Wauwatosa East High School student Sarah Meier was awarded first place, and Valders High School student Cassandra Herrmann was awarded second place.

A panel of professors at UW-Eau Claire judged the entries based on originality, scientific significance, independence, complexity of techniques, individual scientific comprehension, science potential, data analysis and writing skills. The winning participants each received a gift certificate for Border's Books and Music and a certificate of participation.

Meier's entry, titled "Image Distortion in Iris Scanning Technology," involved demonstrating theoretically that it would be possible to fool an iris identification machine if a thin film placed directly on the eye had iris-type markings on it or could modify the iris markings' appearance to a scanner. In the current climate of high security, such possibilities must be taken into consideration when these machines are tested and manufactured. Meier was able to show with very detailed calculations how much the thin film would affect the position of iris markings. Her teacher is Randy Oloizia.

Herrmann's entry, titled "Environmental Analysis of Burying an Abandoned Dwelling Containing Lead," attempted to show whether a house painted with lead-based paint and later disposed of through burial would leach the dangerous heavy metal into ground water. She constructed, in a large tub, a properly scaled model of the different layers of soil in the Valders area of Wisconsin. She then introduced lead-based paint chips into the soil and monitored the lead level in the water as it percolated down to the level of the water table. Her project supervisor was science teacher James Evans.

The participants also competed nationally in the 2003 Intel Science Talent Search, which was administered by SCIENCE SERVICE for the 62nd year. Their projects were among a total of 1,581 entries that represented over 500 high schools in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Each of the 173 schools that placed a semifinalist in the competition was awarded $1,000 per semifinalist to be used in support of the school's science and math education programs.

Intel also awards $530,000 in scholarships to the top 40 finalists during a weeklong Science Talent Institute Competition in Washington, D.C. The national competition is America's oldest and most highly regarded science contest for high school seniors. The application deadline for next year's competition is in late November. More information can be found on the web at the Science Service website.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: May 7, 2003