Entries pour in for global science, art competition at SUNY Oswego

SUNY Oswego’s first GENIUS Olympiad science and art competition has invited more than 170 high school finalists from 45 countries and 32 states to the college this summer, and has attracted a noted National Geographic photographer as keynote speaker.

Iraqi students conducting science experiment.Fehmi Damkaci, assistant professor of chemistry and the competition’s chief organizer, was ecstatic about the entries—more than 620 in all. He said it has been a tough task to trim the list for this summer’s Global Environmental Issues U.S. (GENIUS) Project Olympiad.

“It was very difficult to eliminate any of the entries,” Damkaci said. “There were remarkably high-quality projects throughout the applications.”

From June 26 to 30, the competition and its exhibitions, ceremonies, judging, field trips and fun are expected to draw to Oswego a large percentage of the finalists, their teacher/mentors and, in some cases, family members.

Damkaci said the public is welcome to an opening exhibition of the students’ projects at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 27, in Hewitt Union ballroom, followed by a gala opening ceremony at 8:15 p.m. at Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre, featuring keynote speaker Annie Griffiths, a photographer for National Geographic.

“This is a science and art competition,” Damkaci said. “We were looking for someone to speak to both audiences. Annie Griffiths fits for every angle we considered.”

Photographing need

Griffiths, one of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic, has had assignments in more than 100 countries. Her work shows her commitment to portraying need around the world. She is founder and executive director of HotPink, a collective of photojournalists documenting the programs that help poor women deal with the effects of climate change.

With sponsorship from Syracuse Research Corp., Terra Science and Education Foundation and SUNY Oswego, each visiting entrant and his or her teacher will have only airfare to pay among major trip expenses, Damkaci said. Organizers are continuing their fundraising efforts.

Finalists hail from Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt, and the four corners of the Earth: Albania and Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines. More than 80 American high school projects made the finals.

Experiments, artwork

Surveying the titles of the projects hints at the depth of environmental research the students are putting into their scientific experiments and artwork.

“Removing oil from water using immobilized enzymes,” from Kyrgyzstani high school students Aidana Bekbulatovna and Aisuluu Sargaldakova, is in a special GENIUS category for water cleanup following oil spills that resulted from the global attention drawn to the rupture and explosion in April 2010 of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mexican high school students Cuauhtemoc Tonatiuh and Vidrio Sahagun offered “Stormwater Surface Runoff Use and Small Hydraulic Jumps to Improve the Quality of Land, Water and Air.” Afghan students Hashmatullah and Ajmaljan Mohammad Ashraf produced “Laser-Based Continuous Monitoring (LBCM) Method for Water Sources.” And Sai Saing Toom Herng of Myanmar submitted “We Don’t Inherit the Planet from Our Parents, We Borrow It from Our Children,” an art entry.

The students’ itinerary will include a day trip to Niagara Falls with a stop at Waterloo Premium Outlets on the way back, an international fair in the Campus Center food court, a basketball tournament at Laker Hall, an ice cream social outside Waterman Theatre and the exhibitions and judging.

GENIUS will offer scholarships, prizes and medals to student researchers whose projects are judged best in their categories.

For more information, visit http://geniusolympiad.org.

PHOTO CAPTION: Coconut cleansing—Iraqi high school students Jhia Sadik, left, and Shkar Lateef work on an experiment titled “The Use of Coconuts in the Removal of Oil from Water” for SUNY Oswego’s GENIUS Olympiad competition for environmental research in science and art. The more than 170 finalists from 45 countries and 32 states have invitations to visit Oswego from June 26 to 30 for judging, public exhibitions and ceremonies, a trip to Niagara Falls and more.

(Posted: Apr 14, 2011)

Tags: science