Lexmark employees help Kentucky science fair champs prepare for next level of competition

kward1@herald-leader.comApril 27, 2013 

Kentucky high school students who will compete in the international science fair next month had a chance Saturday to get feedback on their projects from real-world scientists and engineers.

Next month, 17 Kentucky students — six who won at the state science fair and 11 who won at their regional fairs — will compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix.

On Saturday, eight of the students accepted an invitation from Lexmark to practice presenting their projects and engage in a question-and-answer session with a panel of Lexmark employees. The employees helped the students understand how the science they are learning in school translates into real-world careers.

The event was held at the University of Kentucky/Lexmark Center for Innovation in Math & Science Education on Russell Cave Road.

In addition to hosting the students Saturday, Lexmark is paying travel expenses to the international fair for the six state winners.

"Lexmark is a technology company, so we're very interested in promoting, being a strong supporter of, a cheerleader of, science, technology, engineering and math education," said Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke. "There's no better thing than a science fair to be able to recognize these young men and women."

Rooke said it's also important to provide "a support system" for students interested in going into science and technology careers.

"It's not an easy path," he said. "These are tough subjects."

The eight students who attended Saturday's event were dressed as professionally as if they were interviewing for a job and presented projects with names such as "Optimization of Carbon Nanotube-based CFx Primary Battery Performance: Role of Fluorination."

"It's a great thing to be able to meet with people that are already established in their fields," said Trevor Krolak, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, who said he is interested in studying computational neurosciences.

Krolak said he began working on his project, "Analysis of Changes Regarding Insulin Signaling in Response to High Fat Diet and Aging," in January of his junior year.

He said he has spent 400 to 450 hours on the project and is "very excited" to be attending the international fair.

"I had no idea that I would make it this far," he said.

Petra Ronald, a senior at Dunbar, said she appreciated the opportunity to get feedback from unbiased listeners about her project, which examined how television viewing habits affect gender stereotypes and sexual harassment.

"I really needed to practice for Intel. I really want to be successful," she said. "In science fair, the judges don't tell you what you need to do."

Ronald, who said she plans to attend Duke University and is considering a career in law, asked the Lexmark employees how important they considered the handshake in making a first impression.

"Don't worry about that unless you run for president," replied Lexmark engineer Jim Booth. "And one of you probably will."

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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