WILKES-BARRE — Seven hundred of the area’s brightest young minds in science came to Wilkes University Saturday to compete in the 53rd annual Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Region 2 competition.
The competition, known as PJAS, promotes the study of science and research through the scientific method.
Thirty-four school districts from five counties had seventh- through 12-grade students presenting research stemming from their experiments in the areas of biochemistry, biology, botany, chemistry, environmental science, earth and space, computer science, mathematics, physics, zoology and microbiology, said Glenn Pettinato, judging chairman.
This is the first year Wilkes University hosted the annual competition, said Robert Taylor, director and instructor of the Engineering Management Division of Engineering and Physics program at Wilkes University.
“In the past, the event was held at King’s College,” Taylor said. “This year, the PJAS pushed to have the students present their work as Power Point presentations. We have the facilities to support that.”
Meeting the requirements to present a 10-minute Power Point slideshow of his experimental findings on today’s water quality, Matt McDonough, a sophomore at North Pocono School District, said his hypothesis was water would be dirtier due to poor water management and man-made pollution.
What he discovered was the water was not as dirty as he thought.
“Current water management practices are working and limiting the amount of dirt and pollution in water,” McDonough said.
Students were judged in the areas of presentation, scientific thought, experimental method, analysis of material and judges’ opinion. First, second and third place were chosen and announced during a dinner at the Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre.
First-place winners will move on to compete in state competition held in May at Penn State’s main campus.
“I have seen students become so upset they cried because they received third place,” Taylor said. “I remind them of what they accomplished and all they learned from the experience. Then I remind them there is always next year.”
A former competitor and current Wilkes University junior majoring in electrical engineering, Nicholas Morrison of Dallas served as a judge. He competed in the PJAS for six years and won a scholarship through the event.
“I know what is like and I know how hard they worked,” Morrison said.
His PJAS experience has helped him preparing for his college career. Morrison said he has learned to “write really good lab reports.”
Breathing easy after the competing, McDonough, said presenting his findings on water purity was not as nerve racking as his first year. He does advise students who want to compete next year to start brushing up on their presentation skills.
“I think I am getting used to it,” he said. “I think a good portion of the presentation counts.”