Students find formula for success at Native science fair

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2002

For eight Juneau students participating in the Alaska Native Science Fair in Anchorage on Wednesday, the day got off to a shaky start as a pair of earthquakes rattled the region.

But the Juneau contingent rebounded nicely from the early morning jolt. A study of the medicinal properties of devil's club, done by Floyd Dryden Middle School seventh-graders Amanda Padron and Kami Wright, was one of four projects selected to represent Alaska at the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair next month in Albuquerque, N.M.

The two other Juneau teams received high marks from the judges.

What sets the Native science fair apart from other science fairs is that projects are graded by two sets of judges one working from the standards of Western science, the other examining projects' relevance to Native culture. The three state fair entries from Juneau were the top-scoring projects from the Southeast Alaska Native Science Fair, held in Juneau last month.

Wright said the devil's club project - which compared the effectiveness of devil's club salve and hydrocortisone cream on skin conditions - went over well among the crowd.

"A lot of the people from the villages wanted to try the devil's club salve," she said.

For nationals, Wright said she and Padron may make small containers of the salve to pass out to judges and spectators.

Wright said winning one of the four best-in-show awards was exciting - although the excitement of the early morning tremors was hard to match.

"That was awesome," she said. "The big one came and rattled the whole building."

Juneau School District Assistant Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the state fair sponsors will cover a portion of the Albuquerque trip costs; the district is looking for ways to fund the rest.

Among the other Juneau entries, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School students Rena Dalmon, Courtney Wendel, Myshell Pope and Brandon Roulet received the highest score from the Western science judges for their project studying the antibacterial properties of sphagnum moss. Rachel Searls and Ari McDonough also scored well with their project comparing the insulating properties of feathers and blubber.

In addition to Juneau, the fair included students from Nulato, Selawik, Arctic Village, St. Paul, Port Lions, Circle and Kiana, according to Andy Dick, state fair coordinator.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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