County students win 4 first places in RV Governor’s School Project Forum


Lord Botetourt and James River High School students show off their ribbons for placing in the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School 2017 Student Project Forum held at Patrick Henry High School January 28. Four county students earned first places in their project catetories. The students are Mason Lavinder, Ashlyn Wolfe, Libby Keely, Emily D’Arpa, Amber Alam, Madeline Cummings, Eric Reynolds, Yasmin Sykes, Tara Malloy, Gavin Oxley, Benjamin Johnson, Maria Parnell and Ainsley Swartwout.

Botetourt students won four first places in the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School 2017 Project Forum held at Patrick Henry High School January 28.

A total of 264 gifted and talented students from across the Roanoke Valley participated in the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (RVGS) for Science and Technology’s annual Student Project Forum.

Eight other projects by Botetourt students also earned second or third places in the competition categories.

James River senior Benjamin Johnson took first place in the Environmental Engineering A Category for his project on Wastewater Concentrate Solidification.

JRHS junior Tara Malloy’s project, Measurement of Thickness of Oil Layer on Water, took first place in the Environmental Engineering B Category.

Lord Botetourt junior Gavin Oxley took first place in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Category for his project, the Effect of Polyethylene Oxide Concentration on the Solubility of a Copolymer in Water.

LBHS juniors Maria Parnell and Ainsley Swartwout won first place in the Robotics and Intelligent Machines A Category for their project Acoustic Fire Extinguisher.

The Governor’s School is a specialized regional center for the advanced study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for students in grades 9-12. The school is located at Patrick Henry High School, and includes JRHS and LBHS students among its 270-student enrollment from around the Roanoke Valley.

The Project Forum competition included several scientific disciplines including animal and plant sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biomedical and health sciences, cellular chemistry and molecular biology, computational biology and bioinformatics/mathematics, earth and environmental sciences, embedded systems/systems software, physical and chemical energy, engineering mechanics, environmental engineering, materials science, microbiology, physics and astronomy, and robotics and intelligent machines.

A panel of 60 judges evaluated the 169 projects and determined scores based on strength of presentation, comprehension of subject matter, and depth of research. There was also a public viewing of the event.

Students have the opportunity to advance to a variety of local, regional, state, and international science fair competitions.

Other Botetourt students who place include:

From James River High School:

  • Madeline Cummings, second place in Environmental Engineering A for her project Optimizing the Degradation of Polystyrene by Exiguobacterium Extracted from Mealworms.

From Lord Botetourt High School:

  • Amber Alam, second place in Materials Science for his project Cordwood and Straw Bale Construction.
  • Emily D’Arpa, second place in Biomedical Engineering for her project A Device to Monitor Temperature Characteristics of a Wound.
  • Libby Keely, second place in Environmental Engineering A for her project, Optimizing the Degradation of Polystyrene by Exiguobacterium Extracted from Mealworms.
  • Ashlyn Wolfe, second place in Robotics and Intelligent Machines A for her project, Intercommunicating Robot to Aid Emergency Responders
  • Mason Lavinder, third place in Earth and Environmental Sciences for his project, Using Coffee Infused Bioplastic to Remove Heavy Metals from Water.
  • Eric Reynolds, third place in Mechanical and Systems Engineering C for his project, A Device to Improve Hand Sanitation Compliance.
  • Yasmin Sykes, third place in Plant Sciences C for her project The Effect of Turmeric Extract on the Growth and Germination of Marigolds and Mung Beans.

The complete list of award winners, major sponsors, and the schedule for the various science fairs that Governor’s School students may attend can be found on the school website, at

The RVGS thanked

  • The diverse and accomplished panel of judges who evaluated the Student Project Forum
  • Silent Auction co-chairs Lacey Levy and Paul Parnell for their extraordinary efforts in organizing the Silent Auction and Annual Appeal that raised more than $20,000 to support student research at the RVGS.
  • Over 180 parents, local businesses, and community supporters who generously donated items, service, and cash for the event

The Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology was established in 1985 to improve education in math and science for highly motivated secondary students. RVGS makes it possible for the school systems involved to pool their resources to the advantage of all.

The Governor’s School currently serves about 270 students from seven school districts around the Roanoke Valley, including Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Roanoke and Salem.

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