Cape, Perryville Students Named Semifinalists in Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge


David Westrich, Alan Ernst named two of 400 semifinalists in 6th Annual Science Competition


Sept. 10, 2004 – Discovery Communications, Inc., has announced the names of 400 middle school students, including two who competed in the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair at Southeast Missouri State University in March, who have been selected as semifinalists in the 2004 Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC).

They are David Westrich of Cape Girardeau , a freshman at Notre Dame Regional High School, who completed his project while an eighth grader last year at St. Vincent de Paul Parish School in Cape Girardeau, and Alan Ernst, a freshman at St. Vincent High School in Perryville, Mo., who completed his project while he was an eighth grader at St. Vincent High School. 

The nation’s premier science contest for students in grades 5-8, the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC) encourages the discovery, exploration and communication of science and identifies and celebrates the innovative scientists of tomorrow. Students were chosen from the initial pool of 75,000 students who entered science fairs nationwide.

Westrich was selected by DCYSC judges as a semifinalist for his project entitled “Lead Levels in Invertebrates Near Herculaneum, Missouri,” advancing to the national competition. Westrich worked to determine if the distance from the lead smelter in Herculaneum, Mo., had an effect on the lead levels found in earthworms and woodlice in the area. In the end, his data supported his hypothesis that lead levels found in specimens increased as they were collected nearer the plant.

“We are very proud of David’s work,” said Nancy Heberlie, principal of St. Vincent de Paul Parish School in Cape Girardeau. “It is exemplary work of our students at St. Vincent’s.”

Ernst was selected by DCYSC judges as a semifinalist for his project entitled “Sunlight and Mirrors,” advancing to the national competition. He tested a solar cell, using mirrors, a concave reflection dish and a magnifying glass. The test involved reflecting or magnifying light onto the solar cell while the cell faced the sun

“We’re very proud of Alan, and we are excited about the work he’s going to be doing in the future,” said Lisa Best, principal of St. Vincent High School. “We’re going to continue to see Alan succeed.”

“This year’s competition continues the tradition we’ve established of making science fun for middle school students while cultivating the next generation of American scientists,” said Kyle O’Connor, vice president, Discovery Communications. “What is clear from the quality of the entries this year is that the future of science in the United States is bright. The breadth of knowledge and curiosity demonstrated by the 400 semifinalists is inspiring.”

The Semifinalists

The 400 semifinalists come from 41 states and Puerto Rico and were selected from a pool of 1,795 formal entries.

In total, 75,000 students who entered science fairs nationwide were eligible to compete. The top five states represented by the 400 are Florida (172), Missouri (126), Ohio (92), California (90), and Texas (90). The 400 semifinalists are split nearly evenly between girls and boys and range in age from 10 to 15.

The 400 projects selected to advance to the semifinals runs the scientific gamut, from biochemistry to physics, from zoology to health, and from mathematics to engineering. All the projects were developed with clear-eyed precision and showcased a level of complexity that might make the average adult’s head spin. Beyond the originality and excellence of these original projects, semifinalists were also chosen from their ability to effectively communicate the reasoning and purpose behind their projects.

“These students exhibit an intellectual maturity that is truly remarkable,” said Steve Jacobs, DCYSC head judge. “Even more impressive, and a fundamental part of our competition, is their success in explaining their work to others, a prerequisite of scientific leadership.”

The countdown to choosing America’s top young scientist continues this month, on Sept. 20, when the field of 400 semifinalists is narrowed by the DCYSC judges to the “Final Forty.” These 40 finalists will come to Washington, D.C., Oct. 23-27, where they will take part in the DCYSC finalist competition at the Cole Field House at the University of Maryland. The finalists will compete in team-based, interactive challenges centered on the theme of Einstein’s physics. The students will compete for more than $100,000 worth of scholarships and special prizes, as

About the Competition

In 1999, Discovery created the DCYSC to be a part of the solution to America’s chronic underachievement in science and math. The contest responds to evidence that academic performance and interest in science among American students declines dramatically as students get older – particularly during the middle school years.

The DCYSC identifies and honors America’s top middle school student who demonstrates the best skills in leadership, teamwork and scientific problem solving. In addition, the ability to be an effective science communicator –a goal that reflects Discovery’s philosophy that scientific knowledge is most valuable when it is communicated and shared – is a key component of the judging.

Science Service administers the DCYSC. One of the most respected non-profit organizations advancing the cause of science, Science Service has a sterling reputation for conducting high-quality competitions on the national and international level, including the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

More than 7,500 students have entered the DCYSC since its inception. Winners have received more than $400,000 in scholarship awards, federal government recognition and participated in science-related trips that have taken them to the far corners of the globe.