NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s STEM Research and Learning Center supported the development of 13 high school students to advance to the Texas Science and Engineering Fair, with hopes of advancing to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.  

Mentored by SFA faculty members, students created science projects ranging from testing efficient and sustainable ways to fertilize moon soil and comparing lifting capacities of various arachnids to conservation-focused projects like testing ways to recycle 3D printing filament or testing environmentally friendly leather production from dragon fruit.

As participants in the SFA STEM Academy, ninth- through 12th-grade students engage in real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics within an encouraging community of SFA faculty members and high school teachers. The program inspires academic and interpersonal success and exposes students to STEM fields and careers.

“The STEM Center is thrilled to see the determination, persistence and creativity of these students pay off as they advance to the next stage of science and engineering fairs,” said Dr. Jana Redfield, associate director of the STEM Research and Learning Center. “We commend the faculty mentors who guided them throughout the process.”

The following students will present their research at the Texas Science and Engineering Fair at Texas A&M University March 22-23:

  • From Nacogdoches ISD: 
    • Sam Bentley, mentored by Dr. Dan Bruton, professor in the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy
    • Rogelio Garcia, mentored by Dr. Rick McDaniel, chair of the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy 
    • Viviana Chavarria, mentored by Melinda Wurtz, clinical instructor for JacksTeach 
    • Grace Hao, mentored by Dr. Hector Ochoa associate professor of physics, engineering and astronomy 
    • Kathryn Boyette and Sterling Smith, mentored by Dr. Dennis Gravatt professor of biology
    • Xilone Puffer, mentored by Gravatt and Catherine Kwiatkowski, lecturer of chemistry 
    • and Kennedi Cowser, mentored by Kwiatkowski. 
  • From Lufkin ISD: 
    • Ian Falcon, mentored by Gravatt 
    • Eesha Kumar and John Alexander, mentored by Dr. Erin Brown, professor of agriculture 
    • nd Deepna Kangee and Kenady Hathorn, no mentors. 

Caylin Crow, from Lufkin ISD and mentored by Brown, advanced to the International Science and Engineering Fair and will present her research May 11-17 in Los Angeles.

“Engaging in mentored research through the SFA STEM Academy can be a life-changing opportunity for high school students,” Redfield said. “Opportunities for students to select their topic of interest and conduct research is one of many unique facets of SFA’s STEM Academy.”

The STEM Academy focuses on rigorous coursework in science and mathematics through STEM electives on the high school campuses and half-day trips to SFA every three weeks. At SFA, students engage in college-level laboratory work and field-based experiences under direct supervision of SFA faculty members.

To learn more about the STEM Research and Learning Center, visit their website.

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers the SFA website