Cape Gazette

International science fair inspires local students

Mikayla Ockels among 14 regional students to attend Arizona event
By Rachel Swick Mavity | Jun 18, 2013
Source: Submitted 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.

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.

The Delaware Valley science fairs group includes in back (l-r) Richard Close, Dr. Darlene Jones, Joshua Li, Alex McBride, Matthew Ho, Martin Kurian, Lijia Xie, Devon Cody, Edward Bao and Marie Donata.In front are Dr. Ana-Rita Mayol Cabassa, Jessica Xu, Mikayla Ockels, Kerri Diamond, Meredith Barr, Shashwat Kishore, Bansri Patel and Mickey Disston.Missing from the photo are student presenter Lauren Harper and adult sponsors Ruth Blouch, Bill Rissinger, Shiela Romine, Dr. Sue Johnston and Henry Disston. (Source: Submitted)
Mikayla Ockels in front of her project.
Mikayla Ockels points at her name on a board with all of the finalists names
At the science fair, the finalists could enjoy panels modeling science experiments. Here Mikayla looks at an exhibit on the sun's light. (Source: Submitted)
During the conference, Mikayla Ockels snaps a picture of other students on stage. (Source: Submitted)
Mikayla checks out another project.
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