Sixth Grader Wins a Second Place Award at State Science Fair

Congratulations to inspired young scientist Lekha Duvvoori of Gilroy, for her recent achievement at the California State Science Fair in Los Angeles. More than 1,000 projects were entered and displayed at the event, 25 in the category that Lekha entered: Mammalian Biology, Junior Division (grades 6 to 8). Lekha spoke with seven judges over a four-hour period, and ended up being awarded Second Place in her category!

“I walked into the California Science Center and was astounded by the number of projects in the three-floored building! They took up every extra bit of room in the building. After I set up my project I looked around and listened to a few people present their projects. I felt that all of this would be just fun and that there was no way I would actually place because there were so many amazing projects. No two topics seemed similar even though there were more than a thousand people and many categories. There are a lot of science lovers!”

Lekha’s earned her a bid to the state science fair, because in March, she entered her project, “I See What Eye See, Low Light Color Vision,” in the Santa Cruz County Science Fair and won kudos and multiple awards in the Junior Division (6th-8th grade). These included a nomination to the upcoming Broadcom MASTERS middle school science competition; and the chance participate in the state event.

“My idea for this project started with my school science class’ module on electricity,” explains Lekha. “I felt excited to learn about electricity and conduct experiments using simple household materials, and thought it was great that I could use tin foil and paper clips to create electrical circuits. I was making a dimmer switch in class, and decided to make another one at home. I’d heard my mother say she was having trouble with night time driving, but not day time driving, and I started to think I could combine those things, and study how people saw color in dim light.”

Lekha researched the topic of black and white or rod vision in low light, but couldn’t find much information on color vision. Her breakthrough came unexpectedly, during an impromptu conversation with her brother’s art teacher, Gilroy photographer and artist Scott Lance. Lekha asked Lance about ways that she might create very low light conditions for her research and he spoke with her about light and color and offered to loan a light meter and lamp with bulbs that would ‘color correct’ by providing a full spectrum of color to minimize variations.

“He talked to me about the physics of light, and about how light intensity on an object cuts down by the square root of the distance from the light source. He got me thinking about placing the light source far away, or covering some of it up to let out less light. I had to make up a piece of equipment for very dim light, and figured out a way to test when people can first see colors by using plates that test for color blindness.” From the testing she conducted, Lekha says she found that adults over 45 have more trouble seeing color in low light, although there was no difference by gender.

At the county science fair in Santa Cruz, Lekha’s in-depth research, experiments and analysis earned her: First Place in the Medicine & Health, Junior Division; Second Place, overall, Junior Division; Broadcom MASTERS award for Outstanding Performance; Plantronics special award for Outstanding Achievement in Applied Science and Technology, Junior Division; and a United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement for an Outstanding Science/Engineering Project.

“If we know about this then we can think about designing web links to have not just different colors, but also different fonts,” she comments. “I made maps showing that colors with more contrast are better than close-contrast color choices. This is also important for street signs. This year I had fun presenting my project to all the judges and explaining it to them, and I liked my topic because it was really original.”

The Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), is a program of the Society for Science and the Public designed for middle school students. The top 5% of middle school participants in science fairs across the nation are nominated for this event – some 6,000 students – though only 300 are ultimately selected to participate in the competition itself.


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