For those who have ever had the experience getting last-minute preparations ready before a presentation, a school paper, a test, an event – anything – imagine what those last few minutes might be like if a hurricane of historic proportions blew through town and set that project back.
Well, that's exactly what happened to three Ward Melville High School students – Phoebe McAuliffe, Gloria Zheng, and Sanjula Singhal – who were able to put all distractions aside after Hurricane Sandy touched down on Long Island to earn themselves the distinction as semifinalists in the nationwide Intel Science Talent Search.
A deadline for project submissions was originally pushed back from Nov. 14 to Nov. 18 after the storm hit Long Island and New Jersey on the last day of October. But in the time between, Ward Melville was closed for seven days, student mentors were sometimes unavailable as they dealt with impacts from the storm, and many struggled to even find something that has become somewhat of a necessity when dealing with scientific projects: electricity.
"Mentors were unavailable, and many lab facilities at SBU were down. As a result, little work on the applications could be done," said George Baldo, director of InStar Science Research Program at the Three Village School District.
"We scrambled to finish, and the entire weekend was spent reviewing/editing manuscripts and applications with my students via email. I am extremely proud of them for their perseverance during this hardship. They worked long hours to make up for the lost time, and in my mind, did an excellent job."
- Synopses of the students' research projects can be seen in an attached PDF.
Boldo noted that among the 300 Intel semifinalists nationwide selected, he noticed a drop-off in the number coming from the Long Island-New Jersey area this year, likely due to Sandy.
Each of the 300 Intel semifinalists nationwide – who partner with mentors while conducting their research – receives a $1,000 award, and each school also receives $1,000 for each student who is named. Thirty finalists who will be named on Jan. 23 will earn at least $7,500 for their efforts, with the top 10 honorees earining from $20,000 to $100,000.
Stony Brook University staff battled through the conditions as well, the school reported on Thursday. SBU professors mentored 34 of the 300 semifinalists – more than 10 percent of the nation's semifinalists, including McAuliffe and Zengh.
Fifty three semifinalists in total were announced from Long Island.