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Diocesan student competition taps top scientific minds

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The top scientific student minds of the Diocese of Arlington put their months of hard work on display at the 21st annual science fair at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax April 14. While all seventh- and eighth-graders are required to do a science experiment, only the top 10 projects from each school compete in the annual diocesan fair.

“I think this does a lot to keep science in the forefront of our curriculum,” said Leslie Lipovski, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools. “Our kids get to high school and they know how to run an experiment and collect data.” 

The experiments were divided into 13 categories that ran the gamut from behavior and social sciences, to physics and zoology. 

Sofia Parfomak, a seventh-grader at St. Ann School in Arlington, presented her zoology project, Testing Water Quality with Macroinvertebrate Sampling. Macro invertebrates — organisms that do not have a backbone such as snails, worms and larvae are good indicators of water quality because they cannot survive in polluted environments.  She got the idea when her family was on vacation and met a biologist who showed them how to catch the invertebrates with a net. She started working on her project in early November, trudging through the woods with her dad to reach the streams she wanted to test. According to Parfomak, only one of the three streams received a good health score, while the others were more polluted and had few macro invertebrates. 

After the projects were evaluated by the science fair judges, participants in each category received a participation ribbon while the top category winners received ribbons for honorable mention and medals for first, second and third place. 

Trophies were given to the three top scoring schools, with St. Bernadette School in Springfield winning first place out of the 31 schools participating. 

Chiara De Angelis, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph School in Herndon won the top individual prize for her engineering project, Sunglasses for the Masses, which tested 15 pairs of expensive and inexpensive sunglasses for their ability to block out harmful UV rays. By first integrating a computer board with a UV sensor and digital-to-analog converter, she was able to then write a computer program in python code to read and display the measurement of UV light filtered through the sunglasses. Her findings concluded that all of the sunglasses tested provided satisfactory protection from UV rays while their optical quality varied considerably.

Marc Boyer, an eighth-grader at St. Theresa School in Ashburn, won a special first-place prize for his project, which tested the effects of a magnetic field on the corrosion rate of iron conducting electricity. The prize was presented by Bill Kilpatrick, a science fair judge and outreach director for the Northern Virginia post for the Society of American Military Engineers. 

The nonprofit society likes to honor unique projects, especially those that can be applied to national defense. They invited Boyer to present his findings at a society networking meeting. Boyer was recently accepted into the Academy of Science in Sterling where he plans to pursue his interests in bioengineering. He and his family credit his success to the great teachers and curriculum at St. Theresa School. 

St. Timothy School in Chantilly received special recognition for their participation in the first STEM Fair, which was judged separately from the diocesan fair at the school April 11. The STEM fair, proposed by Lipovski earlier in the school year, challenged eighth-graders to develop completely STEM-focused projects. The students also created digital presentations, which utilizing everything from Google websites to virtual reality. 

See below for a full list of Science Fair Winners for 2018

Overall School Winners


1st place: St. Bernadette School, Springfield: Mary Sinnott, Science Fair Coordinator        

2nd place: Holy Spirit School, Annandale: Debbie Cogliano, Science Fair Coordinator              

3rd place: All Saints School, Manassas: Debbie Woolfrey and Jacqueline Cottingham, Science Fair Coordinators

Top of the Fair

Chiara DeAngelis, St. Joseph School, Herndon

Behavioral and Social Sciences

1st: Andriko  Bilaniuk, St. Mark School, Vienna

2nd: Aidan Furey, Holy Spirit School, Annandale

2nd: Jennifer SanPietro, Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester

3rd: Virginia Schwarz, Nativity School, Burke

HM: Chloe Davies, All Saints School, Manassas

HM: Aida Rhilinger, Blessed Sacrament School, Alexandria



1st: Vivian Spendley, St. Bernadette School, Springfield                  

2nd: Mary Callahan, St. Bernadette School, Springfield

3rd: Nurianna Stevens, St. Theresa School, Ashburn

HM: Aileen Fezzie, St. Veronica School, Chantilly

HM: Amy Nguyen, St. Michael School, Annandale

HM: Sarah Terpenning, Holy Spirit School, Annandale


1st: Christina Shaver, St. Agnes School, Arlington                              

2nd: Caroline Fletcher, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Arlington

3rd: Augusta Marty, Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester

HM: Pio Nguyen, St. Ambrose School, Annandale

HM: Sofia Solis, St. Patrick School, Fredericksburg


1st: Teresa Reilly, St. Ambrose School, Annandale                            

2nd: Kate Delaney, St. Patrick School, Fredericksburg                     

3rd: Mario Rozzi, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Arlington

HM: Camelah Cornejo, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Arlington

HM: Qin Kramer, St. Louis School, Alexandria

HM: Gianna Macedon, St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School, Woodbridge

HM: Sarah Mitchell, St. Ambrose School, Annandale

HM: Kristen Pruitt, St. Patrick School, Fredericksburg

Computer Science

1st: Varun Varma, All Saints School, Manassas   

2nd: Joseph Moran, St. Theresa School, Ashburn

3rd: Andrew Pearce, St. Joseph School, Herndon

Earth and Space

1st: Brigid Campbell, Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester                             

2nd: Evan Link, St. Bernadette School, Springfield                             

3rd: Diego Salazar-Jara, Corpus Christi School, Falls Church


1st: Chiara DeAngelis, St. Joseph School, Herndon                           

2nd: Luci Stoltz, St. William of York School, Stafford                          

3rd: Katie Koper, St. William of York School, Stafford                       

HM: Kevin Balagtas, All Saints School, Manassas

HM:  Timothy Mills, All Saints School, Manassas

Environmental Sciences

1st: Ryan Curry, St. Bernadette School, Springfield                             

1st: Michael Hoess, St. Veronica School, Chantilly                           

2nd: Sofia Tejada, St. Leo the Great School, Fairfax

3rd: J.P. Felmlee, St. Mark School, Vienna

3rd: Michael Caturano, All Saints School, Manassas


1st: Elizabeth Brown, St. Mark School, Vienna                    

2nd: Andres Dubon, St. Agnes School, Arlington 

3rd: Ryan Murray, Holy Cross Academy, Fredericksburg               

Medicine and Health

1st: Calvin Paradise, Holy Spirit School, Annandale, *Calvin also received the Medicine & Health Award donated by Chi Young, M.D.      

2nd: Piper Buswell, St. Bernadette School, Springfield

3rd: Christina Spirides, Holy Spirit School, Annandale

HM: Allison Dunnegan, Corpus Christi School, Falls Church

HM: Catherine Travez, St. Luke School


1st: Conan Ugaz, St. Joseph School, Herndon      

2nd: Mary Gartner, St. James School, Falls Church                           

3rd: Erin Garvert, St. Mark School, Vienna


1st: Sofia Stallard, St. Patrick School, Fredericksburg                       

2nd: John Tigani, St. Bernadette School, Springfield

3rd: Anna Bohli, Holy Spirit School, Annandale

HM:  John Bartholme, St. Leo the Great School, Fairfax

HM: Jack Battaglia, Queen of Apostles School, Alexandria

HM: Blake Brown, St. James School, Falls Church

HM: Danica Fielding, Holy Spirit School, Annandale

HM: Christopher Huertas, Queen of Apostles School, Alexandria

HM: Isabella Matheu, Corpus Christi School, Falls Church


1st: Sophia Beebe, St. Joseph School, Herndon  

2nd: Sydney Vargo, St. Bernadette School, Springfield

3rd:  Ava Mansfield, Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester

Special Prizes Awarded by Dr. Bill Kilpatrick of the Society of American Military Engineers:

1st Prize: Marc Boyer

Certificates of Excellence:                             

Jack Baccara

Danaca Fielding

Katie Koper

Alexander Krushka

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018