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WESTFIELD — When Luke Bulan volunteered at Baystate Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, for a week last summer, he noticed he couldn’t do anything to help with half the babies in the unit, because they were confined to incubators.
The high school junior decided to design a phototherapy blanket to keep babies warm outside an incubator.

“The babies needed to be in incubators to stay warm or to receive phototherapy treatment,” he said. “My idea was to make a phototherapy blanket so they wouldn’t be stuck in a box and could be held by their parents.”

Bulan showed off his phototherapy blanket at the 24th annual Westfield Public Schools Science and Engineering Fair on Jan. 31. He and the other four students featured in this story are representative of the nearly 200 students who exhibited 151 projects in Westfield High School’s gymnasium.

The 16-year-old combined phototherapy and hospital technology into one blanket to optimize the process of taking care of NICU babies.

“Since I didn’t have access to a baby, I periodically scanned the blanket to make sure it was in the proper temperature range for a baby’s comfort,” he said.

Milana Camilleri, whose goal is to become a doctor, analyzed different social factors related to standard health care with antibiotics.

“The social relevance of this is that after contracting COVID-19, there are still long-term effects that make patients more susceptible to being hospitalized or passing away from things such as strep or pneumonia,” said the senior.

Camilleri studied different drugs to see which ones were the most effective at killing bacteria. The 18-year-old focused on effectiveness as well as cost since many low-income individuals often can’t afford prescriptions or doctor’s appointments.

“You typically hear names like amoxicillin and penicillin — I wanted to see which ones would be the most effective at killing bacteria and also would be affordable,” she said.

Her project board included data analysis and biostatistics. It also the social and scientific impact listed of various drugs.

“I’m still researching this — it’s something I want to dive into and expand in my future research,” she said.

Teagan Chisholm-Godshalk’s project, “Sustainable Salad for Small Spaces,” compared growing lettuce in soil, the traditional farming method, to aeroponic growing, which suspends plants in the air.
“For aeroponic growing, I used PVC pipes with small holes so water could be misted onto the roots of plants inside neck cups,” she said.

Using LED lights above the plants, she found that the traditional plants, grown in two-and-a-half-quart containers, surpassed the aeroponic plants in growth. The 16-year-old sophomore attributes that growth to the lights being closer to the containers.

“However, the aeroponic plants are still really productive. They’re doing great, they look great,” she said. “If you live in an apartment, aeroponic plants are low-maintenance and easy to grow in a small space. If you have acres of land, then the traditional method would work great — and you can reuse the land.”

She chronicled her project in a three-ring notebook, taking photos and making graphs of the plants’ growth. Chisholm-Godshalk also tracked her material costs for the project.

A business technology student at Westfield Technical Academy, Karolina Jaworski was one of nearly 40 WTA students who participated in the fair. Her project compared how food companies try to cut costs to maximize profits.

She wanted to examine the effects of cutting costs through ingredient substitution.

Jaworski compared two batches of brownies she baked — one using baking soda and a second batch using baking powder.

“After I baked them, I determined which ingredient was better or worse. Baking powder was more expensive, but it made the batter rise more and it took longer to bake,” said the senior.
She calculated the costs and found that baking powder cost 50 cents more.

“Baking soda is cheaper, mainly because you use a lot less of it — only ¼ of a teaspoon versus one teaspoon for baking powder. There were pros and cons to both, but baking soda actually ended up making the brownies a tiny bit drab and drier when I tried them,” said the 17-year-old.

Even art students had the opportunity to participate in the fair. Their assignment was to create an art project that was their take on human anatomy.

Riley McDonnell, who takes AP art, wanted to show the connection between nature and the human body.

“I have a whole portfolio with different parts of human anatomy as well as flowers and other nature stuff,” said the senior.
She created an illustration of the lungs and a group of flowers to show how they connect with nature.

“Flowers produce oxygen, which we need to breathe, so I thought it was a perfect way to incorporate them into this assignment,” she said.

It took her about a month and a half to do the project.

“It took so long to complete because of all the layering. I wanted to show a lot of depth in the colors, so I had to do a lot of layering in the flowers. My biggest challenge was making it look realistic,” said the 17-year-old.

“The student work and presentations were amazing,” said Lauren Figy Cadigan, supervisor of science, technology and engineering for the district. “We are incredibly proud of the hard work put in by students.”

Fifteen students advanced to the regional fair on March 8 at Western New England University. From there, students can move on to the state science fair at Gillette Stadium on April 5.

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts