Deer Valley High students excel, place third at county science and engineering fair

Devansh Vaid and Katia Williams with their Third Place entry in the county science fair.

Devansh Vaid and Katia Williams with their Third Place entry in the county science and engineering fair.

By John Crowder

Two Deer Valley High School (DVHS) students, Devansh Vaid and Katia Williams, were awarded third place honors in the Math and Computer Science category of the Contra Costa County Science and Engineering Fair, held on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Their project, entitled, “Simple Calculus: The Transformation of an Oxymoron into a Reality,” was one of 262 entered in the competition from students throughout the county.

The student competition, in its eleventh year, is an Intel-affiliated science and engineering fair, in which winners advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The prestigious competition, which is the largest high school scientific research event in the world, brings together more than 1,500 students from about 70 countries and territories to compete for college scholarships, including one for $75,000.

The Contra Costa County’s fair was established when local businesses joined together with K-12 educators in 2005. This year the fair was held at Los Medanos College. 130 judges, each reviewing multiple projects, worked all day and into the evening the Friday before the awards ceremony in order to complete the difficult task of selecting the winners from among the many outstanding projects entered into the local competition.

Third Place Ribbons and certificates at Vaid and Williams' display.

Third place ribbons and certificates at Vaid and Williams’ display.

For their project, Devansh, a junior, and Katia, a senior, who are both taking AP Calculus AB this year, created a new Calculus notation for basic principles, such as limits, derivatives, and integrals, that had visual connections to the logical concepts that they were taken from.

Both students found Calculus to be challenging, and noticed that many of their classmates did, as well. According to Katia, “We were able to make it through – and we love it- but we still saw others around us having lots of difficulty, and knew that many other students don’t even attempt Calculus because they know how challenging it will be.”

Devansh concurred with Katia’s assessment.

Nobody will deny that Calculus is difficult,” he said. “But I saw no reason why that great, and almost magical, thing couldn’t be simpler.”

Devansh explained the project he and Katia worked on.

Katia and I tackled the problem of making calculus easier, more aesthetically pleasing, and more approachable,” he stated. “We wanted to simplify the hardest things about Calculus and we found that it was the transition from logic to mathematics that made it so daunting. A lot of time, with traditional notation, things get lost in translation, and success is dependent on the student’s analysis of that translation rather than comprehending the problem.”

According to Katia, “If the notation looked like the type of problems students were solving, and reminded students of the logic by which they can solve the problem, concepts would be easier to grasp and would be understood on a deeper, and lasting, level.”

Innovation, especially innovation and research in STEM fields, often needs tools like Calculus in order to occur at all. I believe our project helps us achieve this innovation,” she added.

Both students also had high praise for those who assisted them with their project.

Ms. McClain, our AP (Advanced Placement) Calculus teacher, and Mr. Adkins, our AP Physics teacher, were both immensely helpful,” said Katia. “They both inspired us to begin the project, and guided us along the way.”

Devansh agreed that both teachers were, “immensely helpful,” and added that his parents, “were also an inspiration for me.”

The two students each spoke enthusiastically about their science fair experience.

It was really humbling to be at the science fair,” said Devansh.

It was definitely interesting,” added Katia. “It was a great learning experience, and I like to think that the judges’ reactions spoke to our level of innovation.”

Katia will be graduating this year, and plans to attend either U.C. Berkeley or UCLA in the fall. Meanwhile, Devansh will have another year at DVHS, where he believes he may be able to further expand upon the project he and Katia began this year.

Both students also said they wanted to encourage others to pursue an interest in science.

Science and technology are the future,” said Devansh. Katia concurred.

I would highly encourage any student with any inkling of an idea for research to enter the science fair as soon as they can,” she said.

Katia shared a final thought.

I think that, as kids, we feel like we sometimes don’t have much to offer the world, but it is the exact opposite. We have everything to offer,” she exclaimed. “Adults are often tied down with jobs and responsibilities, but, as students, we have ideas and time. We don’t have to – and we shouldn’t – wait to innovate.”

the attachments to this post:

3rd Place Ribbons

Devansh Vaid & Katia Williams

One Comment to “Deer Valley High students excel, place third at county science and engineering fair”

  1. Kaylee says:

    Amazing project you two!!!

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