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Mitchell students win big at international science fairs

Madison and Hannah Hetland, of Mitchell, took home a bronze award from I-SWEEEP (International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project), for their project titled “Constructing a Solar Graphene Based Supercapacitor.” (Submitted photo) 1 / 3
Haley Rust and Andrew Weller, both of Mitchell, each received silver awards at the International Genius Olympiad competition last week in New York. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
Alexander Rodriguez, of Mitchell, placed fourth at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) with his presentation, “Artificial Sugars and Increased Lipid Levels.” (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Mitchell High School students are ramping up their research.

For the first time, Mitchell students had a "clean sweep" of three of the largest science fairs in the country.

On Friday, Andrew Weller and Haley Rust, both of Mitchell, each received silver awards — which is the top 70 to 90 percent of projects — at the International Genius Olympiad competition in New York. For Weller and Rust to earn silver awards was "huge," according to Jody Strand, assistant director of the South Central South Dakota Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Dakota Wesleyan University.

Rust's project was called "Effects of E-cigarettes on Mealworm Offspring," while Weller's was titled "Greenlighted."

Prior to the Genius Olympiad competition, other Mitchell students also swept competition internationally at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP) competition earlier this year.

Alexander Rodriguez, of Mitchell, placed fourth in mid-May at ISEF with his presentation, "Artificial Sugars and Increased Lipid Levels."

After qualifying at the Dakota Wesleyan fair, Rodriguez was chosen to compete against more than 1,400 projects at the international fair in Los Angeles, California. He won $500 for his fourth-place finish.

And prior to ISEF, Madison and Hannah Hetland, of Mitchell, took home a bronze award from I-SWEEEP, for their project titled "Constructing a Solar Graphene Based Supercapacitor."

The Hetlands earned $150 for their award and competed against students from 50 states and more than 60 countries.

"It's huge to have a clean sweep, we've never had that before," Strand said. " ... The biggest thing, we feel so great for them. It's a huge deal and they have a chance to vie for money and scholarships. It just gives them really good experience that they are going to carry on for the rest of their lives."

Strand said is a "huge opportunity" for the students to compete nationally for scholarships and recognition, as well as learn public speaking and research skills.

These same students also placed at the It's All About Science Festival in Sioux Falls, according to Julie Olson, MHS science teacher.

Rodriguez earned first in the high school student research poster competition, while the Hetlands and Rust tied for second. Olson also went home with a prize, earning first in the teacher research poster category. The Mitchell High School Research Club also earned first in the community booth category.

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