Several Gahanna Lincoln High School Science Academy students are advancing to the Ohio State Science Day and Buckeye Science and Engineering Fair, after qualifying during the District Science Day on March 17 at Columbus State Community College.

Students who will present science research projects at Buckeye Science, hosted by COSI, on Saturday, April 7, are Sreekar Miriyala, Umar Jara, Portia Baratta and Dolores Pacheco. They also will participate at the Ohio State Science Day on May 12 at Ohio State.

The students are all participating in Special Aspects, the scientific-inquiry capstone course of Gahanna's Science Academy program.

The course challenges students to explore the scientific method by performing their own science research project.

"I am very proud of our kids," said Tyler Bruns, a Gahanna Lincoln Science Academy teacher.

He said students started their projects in August to meet a deadline in December.

"During that time, the kids work incredibly hard on (projects), often devoting hundreds of hours of their free time to work on them," Bruns said.

He said students also often continue to work on their projects during January, February and March, well after the due date.

"Every year, the kids impress me with their diligence, critical-thinking skills and their unique project ideas," Bruns said. "These kids really are the future scientists, engineers, doctors and innovators of America, and I am happy that our program can help prepare them for those careers."

Pacheco, a senior, said his project was developing an alternative way to detect bacterial infections in contact and non-contacts lens users.

"The background was basically me doing a lot of research with the two mentors I had -- two optometrists in Columbus," he said. "I also did a lot of research online, through databases with the Centers for Disease Control."

Moving forward, he said, he might make a few alterations based on feedback, as well as update his poster.

"I was very excited in everything that happened, placing for state and asking me to present for COSI," Pacheco said. "I like the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) area."

He plans to attend Ohio State, majoring in biology with a minor in Spanish in a pre-optometry track.

Jara, a senior, said his project is based on underwater robots.

"I've been on the underwater robotics team," he said. "My project was trying to make the navigation experience more ergonomic for pilots."

Jara said he tried to make prototypes, giving a view of what the camera is seeing.

"That was my purpose," he said. "A lot of robotics use a system with two or more cameras and go up to the pilot. The pilot has one or two flat screens in front. I saw room for improvement there."

He plans to major in computer science at Ohio State.

The Ohio Academy of Science holds the Buckeye Science and Engineering Fair to provide Ohio students an opportunity to qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, one of the largest and most prestigious science fairs for pre-college students.

Each year, more than 1,700 students compete from more than 70 countries, regions and territories around the world, with more than $5 million in awards for eligible students.

The highest-rated independent research projects at the district level go on to compete at State Science Day, now entering its 70th year.

During the District Science Day at Columbus State Community College in March, Gahanna students receiving recognition included (listed with their project name):

* Kyle Anders: Prototype Development of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for Invasive Pterois Removal in the Atlantic Ocean, received a $50 prize from the Ohio Association of Computing.

* Pacheco: Utilizing pGLO Plasmids to Efficiently Test For Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

* Miriyala: Transformation of ClyA Gene from E. coli K-12 to S. epidermidis for Hemolytic Behavior, and won $200 in the form of the McGraw Hill Young Scientist Award.

* Baratta: Baseline Moss Research in Preparation for Creating a Living, Moss Carbon Capture Prototype, and won $200 in the form of the McGraw Hill Young Scientist Award.

* Jara: Development of a Telepresence System to Visually Assist in Navigating an Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, and won $200 from the McGraw Hill Young Scientist Award, plus a $50 prize from the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers.

Gahanna was recognized for having an average score in the "Superior" range, Bruns said.

Gahanna's Science Academy is designed to prepare students for future careers in science, research, engineering, robotics, programming and the medical fields through a hands-on, project-based curriculum, said Becky Rice, Academy teacher.

Science Academy alumni have been accepted into universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, Vanderbilt, Emory, Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Purdue, Rose-Hulman, Ohio State, University of Cincinnati, California Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve and Washington University.

Additionally, the last five years, three full-tuition scholarships to Case Western Reserve have been awarded as a direct result of students' projects in Special Aspects, one of several classes housed under the Science Academy umbrella.