COUNTY — Amanda Whalen is making a name for herself in the science fair world. The senior at Veritas Christian Community School was a top finisher in two local science fairs: YES and SARSEF.
Whalen is a senior at Veritas. She has competed in the YES (Youth Engineering and Science) Fair since she was in sixth grade and was a winner in the SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation) Fair for the third time. The senior won more than $6,500 in scholarships from the two fairs with her project titled “Making a Saguaro H.A.W.T.”
“I created a wind turbine tower that incorporates the design of a saguaro cactus, so it has pleats and spines,” Whalen said. “And the goal was to redirect wind upward towards the turbine of the wind turbine so that it spins more. That’s how the saguaro are designed. The wind when it hits the pleats, it redirects it upward and creates lift at the top of the plant, so I wanted to incorporate that into a wind turbine tower so that it would create lift at the top and cause the turbine to rotate more.”
She said the idea for her project came from a visit to Saguaro National Park. Whalen said renewable energy projects tend to interest the judges, which contributed to her selection in the project.
Whalen won Veritas’ science fair in January, which is how she was selected to compete in the YES Fair. She said it took her a few weeks to conduct the proper research to start, then two weeks to build her models. Next was five days of experimentation and putting the project together.
“I don’t want to give the idea that this was something super complex and amazing,” Whalen said. “I mean, it was cool but I honestly feel like people are giving me more clout than I deserve. Honestly, what I did was connect two things and did an experiment about it with popsicle sticks. I don’t want to make it seem like something unattainable, especially to kids that are coming after me. It wasn’t about being super smart or anything like that, it’s just trying to be creative with science.”
Whalen will use her scholarship winnings to pursue her dream of studying chemical engineering at either Arizona State University or the University of Arizona. She said she is glad she is able to help her family pay for her education and that makes all her hard work worth it.
“We’re proud of her,” said Whalen’s mother, Maria Whalen. “She has always been a hard worker.”
Sulpher Springs Valley Electric Co. held its annual YES Fair this month with the winners announced in a prerecorded ceremony via Facebook on Friday night. Marcus Hartson, community relations and youth programs for SSVEC, said this year’s fair featured 96 projects from 106 students across the county. Participation for the virtual fair was less than fairs in previous years. The schools that participated were: Buena High School, Cochise Elementary School, Coronado Elementary School, First Baptist Christian Academy, Home School, Huachuca City School, Joyce Clark Middle School, Pomerene Elementary School, Tombstone High School, Valley Union High School, Veritas Christian Community School, Walter J. Meyer School, Willcox High School and Willcox Middle School.
“We strive to provide an opportunity for students in our service area to compete in the international science fair,” Hartson said in an email interview with the Herald/Review. “The YES Fair encourages students from grades 5 through 12 to cultivate their interest in science and engineering, which helps each participant succeed and help build a better America.”
Although the fair wasn’t held in person it had all the aspects and components an in-person fair would have, with a few modifications. Seventh- and eighth-graders submitted a video interview to help prepare them for when they are in high school and have to do an interview with several of the judges. A panel of 10 judges conducted video interviews to select the Grand Prize Winners for High School.
“Judges are looking for the students/projects that have a wide knowledge of their projects’ subject, presents and interviews well, and would represent the YES Fair at the next level,” Hartson said.
Whalen will represent the county at the international competition after her win in the SARSEF. Manuel Castillo and Joseph Schmidt, Zoe Lynn and Angelina Stilwell as well as Sophia Grossi were named YES Fair grand prize winners, so they also willrepresent the county at the international science fair.