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Intel ISEF 2022 --- Our Winning Science Research Students on the World Stage

Three select Commack Research students, Ashley Hsu, Soyoun "Ashley" Moon, and Lakxshanna "Lexi" Raveendran,  qualified to participate in the Regeneron sponsored International and Science Engineering fair.  This competition is the most prestigious high school student science competition in the world.  This year, ISEF welcomed 1,750 students, both virtually and in person,  representing 1,410 projects and 63 countries, regions, and territories. 
 
Of these elite student researchers,  Commack Senior Lexi Raveendran distinguished herself by winning 3rd place in the Microbiology category, for her project, Characterizing the Secretion of the Francisella tularensis protein FTL_1123.  Her win included a monetary award and the honor of being among the top young scientists worldwide.
 
A daily blog of the events is below, mostly written by Mrs. Beatty!
Good luck to our Commack High School science researchers!
#CommackProud

Day 1 - May 8

Sunday is set-up day at the Convention Center, so Ashley H. and I headed over with the NYSSEF group and met up with Ms. Colette, Ashley M. and Lexi to get everyone's booths together. It's nice having some familiar faces, because there is someone new to meet everywhere you go.  A bunch of Velcro dots and some rubber cement later, boards were all set up and we headed off to find some lunch.
 
The first real event for the students was the Finalist Pin Exchange. It's a chance for the finalists to have a casual dinner, meet the other participants, dance, and trade pins and tokens from all over the world. After that, our kids had met and traded pins with people from all over the US.  We had pins from so many states that many of them had never visited.  Then there were all the different countries represented. They got to speak and trade with students from Malaysia, Finland, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico, Afghanistan, and Germany. I could just keep on going. The best part of the Pin Exchange is seeing the students headed there, many in national dress, singing and shouting to each other. There is so much excitement and national pride. They are here as the best of their countries, and they know this experience is one they may not get again.  

Day 2 - May 9

Monday was a very busy with practice sessions all day and opening ceremonies at night.
The chaperones stayed in the conference room all day, and all of the student presenters took a turn presenting their entire project to the group, and then got questions, feedback, and suggestions on how to improve for Judging day.  It was a long day, NYSSEF has 15 projects and we stayed about a half hour with each one trying to give them the best input we could.  I am always impressed with these students, not only for the quality of their work but for their dedication to their projects.  I am pretty certain they are far smarter than I am!

I also learned yesterday that pizza delivery is just not the same outside of NY, but I should have expected that.
 
After presentations, everyone got ready for the opening ceremonies.  All of the students sat together up front, and we were treated to some music from DJ Kara before getting to hear some motivational and inspiring talks from Maya Ajmera, the president of the Society for Science, and Dr. George Yancopoulos, the founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist of Regeneron, the main sponsor of ISEF. We also got to hear from Dr. Angel Cabrera, the President of Georgia Tech.  Hearing these talks really brought home how important this student work in science is - Dr. Yancopoulos shared that the science and reasoning behind Social Distancing was the work of a 2004 ISEF alumni!


Day 3 - May 10

 Judging Day!
Today is when we drop off the students at the Convention Center and they get whisked away to the hall with their projects.  No one but the presenters and judges are allowed on the floor all day, so there are a lot of texts and updates that go back and forth. We had a bit of a break around 12 for lunch, and our NYSSEF kids came back to our meeting room where we had food waiting for them.  We heard how the day was so far, but before long they were headed back to the floor for the second half of judging. Right now we're just waiting for them to finish the judging and for the students to get released for the day. 
 
Tonight is another student only event, the Mixer.  After the pressures of a day of judging, they all have a chance to enjoy themselves in a real party-like atmosphere.  I will have to go on hearsay that it's a great event, because I'm not invited.  
 
CNN Headquarters is in the hotel, so that's something, right?  Apparently, this globe is a big deal because everyone seems to be taking pictures of it, so I did too.

Day 4 - May 11

Last night, after judging, all the student presenters got to go to the Student Mixer.  I heard it was a very social event, with hot dogs, funnel cakes, and a bounce house.  While I am sure there was more than that, those were the highlights that everyone kept mentioning!
 
This morning was Public Day.  It's a bit less formal than Judging Day, but the students have to be ready to speak on their project to any of the judges, sponsors, or teacher chaperones who may find their topic interesting.  Once that was over, everyone grabbed some lunch and we headed out on the first of our planned events - NYSSEF was headed to the Chattahoochee Nature Center for a rope and zip line course, and spend some time on a nature walk. There were two sections of the course, the second more challenging, and Ashley H. went through both making it look easy!  (Full disclosure, I only got through Level 1.  My legs couldn't reach the platform off the zip line and I needed rescuing. Pictures probably exist.)
 
After returning, we all got ready for an ISEF sponsored event at the Georgia Aquarium. We got to see our LISEF friends and really enjoyed the night while we had dinner and saw all the exhibits. After walking back to the hotel, we made our plans for the next day when the students have a chance to network and meet their category sponsors, and finally got some rest.
 

Day 5 - May 12

Networking Day!
The girls were able to meet some of the students within their categories. Team Commack got to meet for lunch. Afterwards, Team NYSSEF would go to an Escape Room while Team LISEF would tour Centennial Park. At night, they attended the Special Awards and got to listen to keynote speaker Michio Kaku, a world-renowned physicist. (from Mrs. Collette)

(From Mrs. Beatty) Thursday started off with category specific networking sessions.  Our students got to go to presentations by the category sponsors and meet their representatives.  They were able to make some great connections between the other student participants and the sponsors.  Team Commack spent some time together before we parted ways for the afternoon.  NYSSEF went off to an Escape Room, where we had three teams competing to see who'd finish in the shortest time (It was the chaperone group. We won.).
 

After heading back, we got ready for the Special Awards Ceremony, where we were treated to a keynote address by Dr. Michio Kaku. He was really entertaining and inspiring to all the students.

Day 6 - Grand Awards Day

Friday started off early - the Grand Awards ceremony started at 9, so we started walking over at 7:45 to make sure we got a great spot on line.  This sounds inconsequential, but this is a BIG thing!  Line position is everything. 

The Grand Awards are really exciting.  The energy is high as everyone waits to see who the winners are.  We were again welcomed by Society for Science President, Maya Ajmera, before they started going through all the categories.  Both LISEF and NYSSEF did very well across every category we had projects in.

The most exciting news of the day was when we got to Microbiology and Lexi was announced as the 3rd place winner in her category!
 










Today was Grand Awards and all the girls worked very hard to get here, as it was an invaluable experience, they networked and made many lifelong friends.

Lakxshanna Raveendran (Lexi) had the honor of walking on the world stage as she placed 3rd internationally in Microbiology. 
Afterwards, Team LISEF went to an Escape Room, while Team NYSSEF went to the Coca-Cola Factory. It was and exciting and exhausting week and the girls were more than ready to head home tonight and catch up on their Commack life. 
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