Redmond Proficiency Academy seniors Stephen Fawcett and Clara Garza recently won second place in the virtual State Science Fair with their investigation of the effects of potassium iodide on Staphylococcus epidermidis (a common bacterium). The science fair is normally in-person, but due to COVID-19, students submitted their materials through the Northwest Science Expo website for review.

According to Fawcett, their goal was to see if they could prevent biofilm formation from the bacteria by increasing potassium iodide level in their environment. Biofilms are dangerous structures bacteria form to protect themselves from white blood cells and antibiotics.

“Our main findings indicated that potassium iodide could be used to prevent biofilm formation, which could be important in preventing sepsis in hospitalized patients,” Fawcett explained.

For the virtual fair, the students submitted a poster board and two Google Docs. The poster contained the graphs, figures, and explanations, while the documents better explained their ideas and experiments.

“Ideally, we would have liked to present our findings in person, as this would have allowed us to explain the full extent of our research and its applications, but we count ourselves lucky to have been able to participate at all,” Fawcett said.

Judges from the Northwest Science Expo determined the project deserved a second-place finish in Microbiology after reading through projects from across the state.

Fawcett and Garza utilized the facilities of the Bend Science Station, a local non-profit, and OSU-Cascades, in preparation for their presentation.

“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to Katrina Brandis with the Bend Science Station and Rebecca Pannaman and Christina Baxter with OSU-Cascades,” Fawcett said. “Allowing us to use their facilities, staff and resources enabled us to put together an exciting experiment and do well at the State Science Fair.”

— From a press release

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