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GMS students attend Auburn-hosted regional engineering/science fair

Pictured from left to right is Dunyea Dorsey, Reagan McLain, Vivian Gates, Krupa Patel, Lance McInvale, MacAllister Brown and Austin Johnson. All seven GMS students represented Butler County at Auburn University’s regional engineering and science fair. Also pictured, far left, is GMS sixth grade science teacher LaVeda Gray.

For the second year in a row, Greenville Middle School’s most scientific minds represented the district at Auburn University’s Greater East Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

And though not all of the seven GMS participants walked away with a trophy, they won something perhaps even more valuable.

LaVeda Gray, a sixth-grade science teacher at Greenville Middle School and head of the school’s science department, said that her students—all of them first-timers to Auburn’s regional fair—were in good company among at least 100 of the sharpest students from around the state on Thursday.

“Even though the sixth-grade students didn’t place, it’s a major accomplishment to even get a chance to go that far,” Gray said.

One GMS student did far more than place, however.

“Eighth-grader Krupa Patel had never won at the district level before,” Gray continued.

“But this year, she won Best in Show at the district level.  And then Thursday, she won second place, and she advanced on to the state science fair, which will be in Huntsville in April. And she won the Society of Women in Sciences and Mathematics Achievement Award, and she was nominated to attend the Broadcom science fair, which is another highly recommended science fair for students to attend.”

Patel, alongside fellow students Dunyea Dorsey, Reagan McLain, Vivian Gates, Lance McInvale, McaAllister Brown and Austin Johnson, began their various projects back in October 2016 in preparation for GMS’s schoolwide fair in January.

Gray would work with her students at each step of the process, helping them fine-tune their creations for each phase of the competition. 

Winners at the school-wide level advanced to the district competition, where they squared off with other schools in the county. Upon taking the judges’ advice at the county level into consideration, the seven finalists further fine-tuned their projects for the regional level.

Projects included a series of three pulley systems that used a spring scale to test which style of pulley could lift a heavy object.

Patel’s lauded project was an exhaustively researched physical and chemical science presentation that concerned proteins.

Some students opted to delve into plant science with projects that determined which type of lighting could best help a plant grow.  Others developed a system of three parachutes to determine which would aid an object’s descent the most.

Though the Greenville students’ projects were varied in size and scope, having an opportunity to witness the creations of others proved the highlight of the event for most.

“It’s very, very important that students get to see and experience this,” Gray said.

“None of these students had made it that far, so they were just in awe Thursday at the fact that we were able to go to Auburn’s campus and participate in this science fair with more than 100 other students, and just be able to look at other students’ science projects and say ‘wow, they did a good job,’ or ‘hey, this is what I’ll try to work on next year.’ It’s just a really good experience for them.”

The operative words are “next year,” as Gray’s students are already considering their projects for the 2018 regional fair.

Gray hopes that this year’s experience proves a catalyst for continued interest in the sciences.

“Last year, I did take six students to the regional science fair, and two of the girls placed and advanced to state,” Gray said. “This is just my second year of being able to do it, but we’ve been able to have at least one or two projects advance to the state level.

“I’m hoping that this continues to be an ongoing tradition.  I don’t plan on changing anything, and I plan on doing this for a while.  And I hope we can continue to put Greenville Middle School on the map.”