International science fair inspires local students

Mikayla Ockels among 14 regional students to attend Arizona event
Checking out the cactus in Arizona are (l-r) Kerri Diamond, ninth-grader from Pennsylvania; Mikayla Ockels of Milton; and Jessica Xu, a tenth-grader from New Jersey. SOURCE SUBMITTED
June 18, 2013

Milton's Mikayla Ockels has a new project in mind: technology to transform manure into electricity.

Ockels was one of 14 aspiring scientists and engineers who recently returned from the International Science & Engineering Fair in Arizona, a trip sponsored by Delaware Valley Science Fairs. The trip offered students from New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware an opportunity to meet students from all over the world.

Ockels said the week-long trip was inspirational.

"I had a great experience and got to meet people from other nations," Ockels said. "It was was great to talk to them and see kids like me doing projects like mine all over the world."

The delegation of students participated in Delaware Valley Science Fairs held in Philadelphia in April. They received an all-expense paid trip to Arizona, where high school freshmen through seniors from 70 foreign countries and 48 states competed for scholarships and prizes valued in the millions, said Cheryl Squadrito, spokeswoman for Delaware Valley Science Fairs.

One of the winning projects was a self-powered car the size of a smart car, Ockels said. Another student made a device that can charge a phone in under 30 seconds.

Ockels said her project, converting manure to methane, didn't place – but her experience in Arizona gave her an idea for next year.

The international fair made Ockels wonder what she could create that would help the world, Ockels said. She now has an idea to use manure to power a lightbulb.

"Many rural areas in third world countries don't have electricity, but they have agriculture and manure," Ockels said. "It would be good for them to be able to provide some electricity with what they already have."

In the Delaware Valley group, eight students placed at the international fair, a record for the organization.

Also on the trip from Delaware were Bansri Patel, 16, of Seaford, and Edward Bao, 16, and Martin Kurian, 16, both of Hockessin.

Ockels said the students had fun staying at a five-star Hyatt hotel and enjoyed seeing all the science fair projects at a nearby convention center.

This summer, Ockels, who just finished ninth grade at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown, plans to compete at the Delaware State Fair in public speaking and judging contests. She will also show chickens and goats.

For more information on the Delaware Valley Science Fairs, go to or call Henry Disston, director, at 215-895-5840.

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