Busting borders of knowledge


 Saturday March 10, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- Drury High School seniors Katie Candiloro and Christy Haley began their investigation into wound-sanitizing products to find out if isopropyl alcohol really was the best way to clean away bacteria or if it was a cost-saving measure for hospitals.

Their results of their experiment, "How Clean Is It, Really?," were revealed at Friday during the eighth annual Western Massachusetts Region 1 State Science and & Engineering Fair at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"We found that soap and water was the best way to clean a wound, followed by isopropyl alcohol," Haley said.

The pair based their conclusion on a series of swabs testing different sanitizers on skin, which were then incubated on plates and checked for bacterial growth.

Candiloro said the inspiration for the project came from an elementary school after-school program she participated in at the college while attending the Northern Berkshire Y's after-care program.

"We'd go once a week," she said. "I remembered one experiment were we went around the college swabbing different items -- door handles and toilette seats -- and then we grew the bacteria cultures."

Haley and Candiloro were among 100 students from 10 schools in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties vying for 40 finalist positions advancing to the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair in May at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, the top two projects from Friday's competition will have a place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May in Pittsburgh, Pa.

MCLA Dean of Academic Affairs Monica Joslin said the science fair has created partnerships between high school classrooms, college science departments and local businesses.

"It's really a terrific opportunity for students to interact with professionals in the field," she said. "We want students to use resources outside of their classroom, whether it be in higher education or in industry."

Minnachaug Regional High School students Lauren Gerberich, Diana Gerberich and Anthony Yacovone, who presented a project called "Determining the Mechanics of Embryonic Environment," said their project was aided by a class they participate in at UMass-Amherst.

"It's a valuable resource and allows us to have access to studies, journals and guidance that we don't have access to as high school students," Yacovone said.

Projects presented at the fair ranged from experiments like those of Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School students Tina Stanley and Bria Winters, who tried to create all-natural lip gloss from 100 percent natural products at less than retail costs, to prototypes for products.

McCann Technical School Seniors Adam Lemoine, Josh Gardner and Alex McKinney presented their prototype for an iPod case that keeps headphones from tangling.

The prototype, still in its infancy, is part of their senior project for the school's Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program, which they'll present at the school in May.

"We still have a few things to work out," McKinney, 17, said. "One of the challenges is to make our design a reality. Something that works on the screen doesn't necessarily work in real life."

But the trio isn't discouraged by the process, Lemoine said. He's sure they'll work out the kinks by the time the project needs to be presented.

"We started off with a concept and then created a matrix of designs," Lemoine, 18, said. "We're still working and testing it. What we're presenting here is the process."

To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email