8th Graders in Andy Bramante’s GHS Science Research Class Included in Top 300 Junior Innovators Challenge

Students from the three public Greenwich middle schools who participate in the 8th grade Science Research program at Greenwich High School run by Andy Bramante enjoyed good news this week.

Mr. Bramante launched the 8th Grade Junior Innovators class last year, and the middle schoolers travel to the GHS science lab before school at 7:30am.

The Society for Science and Thermo Fisher Scientific named 300 student scholars in the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, the nation’s premier STEM competition for middle school students.

Students must in the top 10% of their local science fair to even be eligible to enter the competition.

The Greenwich 8th graders participated in the 2023 CT Science and Engineering Fair, and did exceptionally well. 

Three of the Greenwich middle school students – Amelia Foell (CMS), Bridget Hadden (CMS), and Lula Wang (EMS) – were awarded this nomination to participate in the inaugural Junior Innovators Challenge, and asked to complete a rigorous application, including many essays, both about themselves and their research, last June.

The top 300 junior innovators were selected from nearly 2,000 students from 49 states, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

Amelia Foell and Bridget Hadden, both from Central Middle School, were selected among the top 300, for their research projects.

Amelia Foell

Amelia Foell (Central Middle School): Reducing Food Waste with Early, Visual Detection of Bread-Mold via BODIPY-Colorimetric Card Detection of 1-Octen-3-ol

Continued growth of our global population has placed inordinate demands on our food supply, increasing cost as food growers look for ways to produce more, in the same ecological footprint. In an effort to stretch our food supply, Amelia developed a color-changing sensor that will tell a consumer whether bread fungus, or black mold, has begun growing in bread, weeks before it is visible through the bread-packaging. This will protect consumers, as it will alert shoppers not to buy bread on the shelf, prior to expiration of its sell-by date. More importantly, it will also reduce food waste, as it will tell a consumer that the bread is still edible, even though it is beyond its recommended “use-by” date.

Bridget Hadden

Bridget Hadden, also from Central Middle School: Demonstrating the Persistence of Long Island Sound Polyaromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Contamination

Bridget looked at the persistence of Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the LI Sound waters that surround Tod’s Point, in Greenwich. PAHs are compounds that are predominant in asphalt and rubber products. They are present in our auto tires, roadways, and our driveways (and sealants), and as such, PAHs find their way into local streams, rivers, and the sound, as a function of automobile activity, subsequent rain, and the ensuing runoff. Bridget sampled LI Sound water from many locations at Tod’s Point, and analyzed these samples for PAH content, modeling their presence as a function of air temperature, and LI Sound current/flow, relative to drainage release points along the shore of Greenwich. She found that areas facing the main-land of Greenwich, where PAHs enter the sound from drainage release points along the shore, contained the highest PAH content, which rises with temperature. She also found that water points at Tod’s Point with reduced water circulation contained the highest PAH content, due to stagnation of the water.

Each of the Top 300 Junior Innovators will receive a $125 award from DoD STEM, as well as a prize package. From these 300, 30 finalists will be selected to compete in an in-person competition taking place in Washington, DC later this fall.

2023 Top 300 Junior Innovators Fast Facts:

  • The Junior Innovators hail from 35 states and Puerto Rico
  • The states with the most Junior Innovators are California, Florida and Texas
  • The top three project categories are Engineering, Energy & Sustainability and Environmental & Earth Sciences
  • More than half of the Junior Innovators attend a public school
  • Combined, the Junior Innovators speak a total of 22 languages, including English.
  • Project topics include renewable energy, the threat of microplastics, UV radiation, blood clot prevention and the effects of gender stereotyping on child development

“Congratulations to these exceptional middle school students. I am thrilled to be starting this new journey with Thermo Fisher Scientific as our new sponsor of this decades-long competition, now called the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge,” said Maya Ajmera, President & CEO of Society for Science and Executive Publisher of Science News. “Middle school is a pivotal time in the lives of young people – when many make decisions about engaging in STEM fields. I call on each of these young people to continue down this path, where they have an opportunity to make an impact on our world’s most pressing scientific and engineering challenges.” 

“We are awed and inspired by this inaugural class of Top 300 Junior Innovators, whose research and innovations reflect a rich diversity of academic and personal experiences,” said Dr. Karen Nelson, Chief Scientific Officer, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “As a global life sciences leader with a mission to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer; we especially admire these students’ shared passion for using science, technology, engineering and math to solve problems in their communities and make the world a better place.”

Society for Science is a champion for science, dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement. Established in 1921, Society for Science is best known for its award-winning journalism through Science News and Science News Explores, its world-class science research competitions for students, including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge, and its outreach and equity programming that seeks to ensure that all students have an opportunity to pursue a career in STEM. A 501(c)(3) membership organization, Society for Science is committed to inform, educate and inspire.