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SMCISD Junior Scientist Wins State; SMHS Student Takes 3rd at State; and a Student Soon to Compete Internationally

San Marcos CISD students with an interest in science are learning the benefits of hard work and dedication to a project, as two junior high students and one high school student-Frankie Torres, Hannah Yock, and Jessica Villarreal-just won prestigious state awards. On April 12, 2008, Goodnight Junior High student Frankie Torres took first place honors in statewide competition, earning himself accolades, scholarships, and an invitation from the Governor to participate in a special science camp this summer.

Goodnight Junior High sent a team of three students to San Antonio to participate in the 2008 Exxon-Mobil Texas Science and Engineering Fair held at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center April 10-12, 2008. According the GNJH Science teacher Mollie Bustamante, students Andre Sanborn, Sam Parker, and Frankie Torres “represented our school like shining stars.”

Frankie Torres was the big winner of the day with the following honors to his credit:

o The Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge Award;
o Award from the American Psychological Association in Recognition for Outstanding Research in Psychology in Behavioral and Social Sciences;
o Special invitation to the National Competition for Grades 5-8 in the 2008 Society for Public (SSP) Science Fair (competition this summer) and
o First Place in the state of Texas for the Junior Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

First place winners received an invitation from Governor Rick Perry to an all expense paid 5-day camp at the University of Texas-San Antonio to the Governor’s Science & Technology Champions Academy.

Torres said that his project began with the question: “Can something as simple as an insect learn from past experience?” He built a maze and placed in it four hissing cockroaches and two food groups. One food group contained bananas and lettuce, and the other food group was dry dog food. Torres’ observations led him to believe that creatures as simple as cockroaches demonstrate learned behavior. He plans to expand his experiment. His parents are Frank and Sara Torres, both teachers at Travis Elementary School in San Marcos.

San Marcos High School senior Jessica Villarreal also brought home honors from the Exxon-Mobil Texas Science & Engineering Fair when she placed 3rd in the state with her Botany project. The project’s title was: Molecular Characterization of the Arabidopsis Auxin Insensitive Mutant, Pic 7. More simply put, Villarreal’s purpose of the project was to find the location of the gene responsible for the auxin (a plant hormone) insensitivity that results in the physical characteristics of reduced root hair and less leaf formation. Her parents are Lynn and Charles Villarreal.

Meanwhile, in late March, Miller Junior High student Hannah Yock qualified after the Alamo Regional Academy of Science & Engineering Science Fair for an international science fair competition to be held in May in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center. At the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad 2008, participants will compete in three categories: Energy, Engineering, and Environment-with 58 countries registered so far. Yock’s project will be in the “Environment’ category. Hers is a study of the quality of soil in the San Marcos area. She gathered soil from seven different locations, tested them for nutrients, and then grew plants in them. She then gathered data, set up multiple charts, and drew her conclusions as to what impact humans had on the soils’ ability to grow plants.

Hannah Yock’s parents are Brad and Libby Yock (the latter a San Marcos High School teacher and coach).

“Science has been a focus for us this year,” said SMCISD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Pam Guettner. “We are very proud of the knowledge our students have in science. Our science teachers provide outstanding support for students, and we will continue to develop young scientists in SMCISD. These amazing science fair results are indicative of that hard work.”

By Iris Campbell
SMCISD Public Information Officer

(1) GNJH’s Frankie Torres, by Iris Campbell – (2) MJH’s Hannah Yock, by Jessica Kennedy – (3) SMHS’s Jessica Villarreal, by Linda Contreras
(1) GNJH’s Frankie Torres, by Iris Campbell

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