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Spring Branch Academic Institute students soar at Science & Engineering Fair of Houston


Saying science is important at Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI) is a significant understatement. The school-within-a-school is committed to advancing science every day, and the SBAI community is thrilled with recent science fair results that prove the point.

Three students from SBAI, Spring Branch ISD’s school for highly gifted students, earned top awards for their science fair projects at the recent Science & Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The trio was among 14 SBAI science fair entries that competed in the 63rd annual SEFH, which attracted 850 projects in 18 categories from across Houston. These top SBAI winners include:

Lucy Hamilton

Lucy Hamilton, a 10th grader, earned praise for her entry, “Portable and Affordable Generator,” and was awarded the Science Fair Scholars Award which celebrates the promotion of STEM careers and scientific research among middle and high school students. Students are encouraged to develop science and engineering clubs at their schools to gain leadership skills, engage in a peer network, conduct community outreach activities and build science and engineering skillsets within their studies of STEM.

Hamilton also was recently selected to be a summer research assistant at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There, she will contribute to four main projects this summer: the creation of computer games from OpenSpace simulations, sonification of astronomical images, preparation for Artemis—Sightseeing at the Moon’s South Pole and exploration of the requirements for life beyond earth.

In 2020, she also won a SEFH award, advanced to the State Science Fair competition at Texas A&M University and earned a Special Award from the Space Center of Houston.

Evan Ung

Evan Ung, a sixth grader, entered a project called “Cold Magnetism,” which examined how the temperature of a magnet affects its strength. Evan’s entry won a Jacobs Science Explorer Award for project excellence in pushing the envelope of innovation and new technological horizons. He also received a signed certificate and a book written and autographed by a NASA astronaut.

Rhea Chidambaram

Rhea Chidambaram, also a sixth grader, entered a project entitled “MEGOO (Most Efficient Generator of Oxygen),” which garnered the Smiti Gandhi Research Star Award, named after a SEFH and International Science and Engineering Fair alumni who leaves a legacy and impression upon the scientific community and students mentored in kindergarten through 12th grade. Rhea also earned second place in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Junior Category. She then went on to the State Science Fair at Texas A&M University and placed third in the Earth and Environmental Sciences category in the Junior Division at the Texas Science Fair.

Eleven other top-ranked science fair entries created by the following SBAI students also competed at the SEFH:

  • Noah Anderson
  • Emerson Daley
  • Benjamin Guo and Aaron Xiong
  • Zoe Ju
  • Saige Jurek and Maddox Ottis
  • Aditya Mandke and Caroline Ussher
  • Vincent McGuire and Julio Rivera
  • Eli Pham and George Robinson
  • Stephanie Shen and Kelly Xiong
  • Kitt Taylor
  • Jake Victor

“We are so very proud of all our Dragons and their commitment to the advancement of science,” says Patricia Kassir, SBAI director. “During the past year we also conducted an elementary science fair that 49 students entered with their projects. You can see that science and science fair competitions are quite important at SBAI—we are building scientists.”

Director Kassir continues, “We cannot do this without our amazing science teachers, like Mohammad Haidar, and the support of our most helpful science director, Donald Burken. He and his team provide valuable support, and for that, we are forever grateful.

“SBAI is committed to creating an individualized learning experience for our students and developing their learning potential,” she says. “In addition, we always want to contribute to our district’s vision of T-2-4, which is to have SBISD graduates attain a technical certificate, military training or a two-year or four-year degree.”