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Massapequa Seventh Grade Scientists Find Success

Pictured: Massapequa Supervisor of Science Daniel Mezzafonte, left, and Berner Middle School Principal Jason Esposito congratulated seventh graders Fiona Ash, second from left, and Kayla Vessalico on advancing to the finals of the Institute for Advanced Computational Science Challenge.

Photo courtesy of the Massapequa School District

A shared love of science prompted Fiona Ash and Kayla Vessalico, seventh graders at Berner Middle School in the Massapequa School District, to team up and enter the IACS Challenge in honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Not only did they submit a project, Fiona and Kayla advanced to the finals.

The competition, hosted by Stony Brook University’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science, required them to choose a female scientist or engineer whose work inspired them. Fiona and Kayla selected Eunice Newton Foote, a 19th century scientist who discovered the greenhouse effect.

They were required to create an experiment related to their scientist, so Fiona and Kayla explored the effects of carbon dioxide on temperature. The students filled two soda bottles with water and put a thermometer in each. In one of the bottles, they added an Alka Seltzer table to create carbon dioxide, and compared the temperatures.

Fiona and Kayla submitted a video of their experiment. The judges selected them to attend the IACS Challenge finals at Stony Brook University on Feb. 8.

“It’s really exciting,” Fiona said. “We worked hard and we really like science.”

Added Kayla, “It means a lot because there were so many kids who participated.”

As sixth graders, they tied for first place at the middle school level in Massapequa’s annual Science Discovery Fair. Kayla’s project was about the effects of saltwater and seaweed on the growth of tadpoles, and Fiona wanted to find out if the heart rate of horses decreases when being groomed.

Kayla was inspired to apply for the IACS Challenge by her father, a science teacher in Lynbrook, and asked her friend and fellow science aficionado Fiona to join her. Both students have enjoyed science since elementary school, as Kayla attended Unqua and Fiona went to Birch Lane.

The Science Discovery Fair has been a tradition for Kayla for several years, while Fiona took part in it for first time last year. They are already planning their experiments for this year’s district competition, which will be held in March. Additionally, they have been accepted into Berner’s science research class for eighth grade.

Kayla and Fiona both added that their love of science has been enhanced by their middle school science teachers, who bring the subject to life with interesting and engaging experiments. This year, Kayla’s teacher is Rena Harbeck and Fiona has Pamela Forman.

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