A Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School student will compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — where she will present a project inspired by the lakes right here in Polk County.
Kirstie Tandberg, a junior at the high school, lives on Lake Summit, and so many of her favorite childhood memories are of days spent swimming, boating and tubing the lakes of Winter Haven.
When she noticed a few years ago how polluted her favorite lakes were becoming, she was saddened.
Then she decided to do something about it.
“People would tell me that 50 years ago, all the lakes in Florida were crystal clear. Now a lot of them are cloudy and green — and a big part of that is because of phosphate that causes algae blooms,” said Tandberg, who explained that phosphate is found in products such as detergents and fertilizer.
Four years ago, Tandberg began researching how the calcium component contained in cacti can be used to reduce phosphate levels in water.
She hopes that one day her research will help restore her beloved lakes to their former beauty.
“Maybe one day it will be possible to see the bottom of the lakes again,” she said.
In February, Kirstie Tandberg competed in the Environmental Science category at the Polk Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Tandberg received first place in her category and three special awards. She was also a Best of Show runner-up in the senior division, which includes high school and middle school students.
Her strong showing at the county level sends her to the State Science and Engineering Fair, planned for April 3-5 at The Lakeland Center, and the Intel event, scheduled for May 13-18 in Pittsburgh.
The Intel International Science Fair got its start in the 1950s and is the largest international pre-college science competition in the world. Each year, more than 1,500 high school students from more than 65 countries, regions and territories showcase independent research that is judged by doctoral-level scientists. Participants compete for more than $4 million in prizes and scholarships.
Tandberg is a student in Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School’s STEM class (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), in which students conduct in-depth research and experiments.
She was one of five Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School STEM students who made strong showings at the county level. Other winners include:
- Shannon Alivio, a junior from Winter Haven, who received third place in the Microbiology category.
- Marissa Spruell, a junior from Waverly, who received third place in the Microbiology category.
- Kalie “Bree” Fagins, a senior from Winter Haven, who received an honorable mention in the Medical Science category.
- Matt Smith, a senior from Auburndale, who won a special monetary award in the Engineering category.
“I am so proud that five STEM students from Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School had the opportunity to participate at the 2012 Polk Regional Science and Engineering Fair. All of our students received recognitions and awards based on their scientific knowledge, dedication, citizenship and commitment to research. At Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School, we are growing STEM for the next generation,” said Dr. Suzanne Halverson, professor of anatomy and physiology who also teaches STEM.
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate is making a tradition of sending students to the Intel event. In 2011, Trevor Monroe was a fourth-place winner in the event’s Electrical and Mechanical Engineering competition.