Science Fair. Photo by Doug DeHaven

A million dollars in cash and scholarships was awarded March 29 to this year’s winners in the Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair – including one whose research as a sixth-grader has just now propelled him to national television interviews.

The 75th annual competition drew 1,000 entrants from 120 local schools – the second biggest group in the fair’s history locally – to the Carnegie Science Center-sponsored event, whose winners were announced at a reception in Heinz Field.

Four students will be representing the region at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May:
• Songela Chen, North Allegheny Senior High School, for the project titled “n-3 PUFAs Benefit Microglial Response to Myelin Pathology”;
• Akash Levy, Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice High School, for “Piezoforce Imaging of Confined Oxide Nanowires”;
• Rishi Mirchandani, Fox Chapel Area High School, for “The Impact of Demand Elasticity on the Downs-Thomson and Braess Paradoxes”; and
• Suvir Mirchandani, Fox Chapel Area High School, for “Fuzzy Logic Based Web Browser for the Disabled.”

Suvir, now a 9th grader, is gaining national attention this month for an earlier fair entry, a 2011 project that showed how his school could save $21,000 each year in printer ink costs if they switched to the font that uses the least ink – Garamond. His demonstration that the federal government could save $230 million per year by making the same simple moved has just been published in the prestigious journal Science, which propelled Suvir to spots on CNN, in the Huffington Post and on CBS’s morning show.

He, his brother, and the other two finalists will be among about 1,700 students from 70 nations and territories to compete at ISEF for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and its grand prize: a trip to the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm. Pittsburgh will be hosting ISEF again in 2015 and 2018 after hosting it two years ago.

“We want to make sure they continue their education in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields,” says Lisa Kosick, the Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair director, about all fair participants. She hopes the event encourages them to continue toward STEM-related careers as well, she adds. “And hopefully they will stay in Pittsburgh after college.”

Recipients of the Carnegie Science Awards in the junior, intermediate, and senior divisions were sixth-grader Dilan Gangopadhyay of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School for “Disinfecting Dangerous Drinking Water”; Kevin Chen of Fort Couch Middle School for for “From Tables to Graphs: Restructuring Highly Connected Data,” and Rishi Mirchandani. Falk Laboratory School in Oakland won an award for most category winners in the Junior Division, Freeport Junior High School won the same award in the Intermediate Division, and Fox Chapel Area High School received it in the Senior Division.

First-place winners in each category were::
Junior (grade 6):
• Consumer Science — Futen Wan, Ingomar Middle School, North Hills
• Life Science — Leo Dombrovski, Falk Laboratory School, Pittsburgh
• Physical Science — Dilan Gangopadhyay, PA Cyber Charter School, Pittsburgh
Intermediate (grades 7–8):
• Behavioral and Social Science — Adaline Bradish, Yough Intermediate/Middle School, Ruffsdale, Pa.
• Biology — Joseph Anand, Blessed Pope John Paul II Science Cooperative, Wexford, Pa.
• Chemistry — Drew Koleck, Freeport Junior High School, Freeport, Pa.
• Computer Science/Math — Kevin Chen, Fort Couch Middle School, Upper St. Clair, Pa.
• Consumer Science — Lauren Vuono, St. Thomas More School, Bethel Park, Pa.
• Earth/Space/Environment— Sarthak Navjivan, Dorseyville Middle School, Fox Chapel
• Engineering/Robotics — Joseph Zito, Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, Pittsburgh
• Medicine/Health/Microbiology – Sam Casale, The Campus School of Carlow University, Pittsburgh
• Physics — Nadine Oury, Falk Laboratory School, Pittsburgh
Senior (grades 9–12):
• Behavioral and Social Science — Morgan Scott, Cambria Heights High School, Patton, Pa.
• Biology — Lauren Casertano, St. Joseph High School, Natrona Heights, Pa.
• Chemistry — Jonathan Mulick, Bishop Canevin High School, Oakwood, Pa.
• Computer Science/Math — Rishi Mirchandani, Fox Chapel Area High School.
• Earth/Space/Environment — Mason Zadan, Eden Christian Academy, Sewickley, Pa.
• Engineering/Robotics— Mihir Garimella, Dorseyville Middle School, Fox Chapel
• Medicine/Health/Microbiology — Songela Chen, North Allegheny Senior High School, Wexford, Pa.
• Physics — Akash Levy, Taylor Allderdice High School, Pittsburgh
A list of the winner at all levels is available here ( The first-place projects will be on display at Carnegie Science Center from March 31 through April 6.

Marty Levine's journalism has appeared in Time, and throughout Pennsylvania and has won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere. He teaches magazine writing for Creative Nonfiction magazine.