Students win groundwater science awards at 2005 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Afton Vechery of Glenelg High School in Glenelg, Md., has won first place for groundwater-related projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., this week.

The special award, which included a $500 prize, was sponsored by the National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation.

Vechery's project was entitled "Contamination of Proximate Wells in the Piedmont Region."

Other winners in the groundwater special award category were:

  • Second Place and $250 -- Sara Sullivan, Unioto High School, Chillicothe, Ohio, "An Analysis of Shallow Groundwater Chemistry in Betsch Fen."
  • Third Place and $200 -- Douglas Naftz, Park City High School, Park City, Utah, "A Novel, Cost Effective Approach for Removing Arsenic from Drinking Water in Bangladesh."

In her project, Vechery sampled wells to test her hypothesis that if a contaminated well is found in fractured bedrock, wells in close proximity will have a higher risk of being contaminated. By analyzing 65 samples, she concluded that wells in close proximity to a contaminated well should be monitored closely, and results from the well testing should be made available to neighbors through government health agencies.

Vechery shared her project results with Maryland's Department of Environmental Health and state Senator Allan Kittleman.

"These award winners represent science at its best. Because groundwater is such a valuable resource, we are very pleased to recognize such outstanding contributions to the body of ground water science," said Stephen E. Ragone, National Ground Water Association (NGWA) science and technology director. "As a ground water scientist myself, these winners and their projects give me hope for the future."

In addition to the cash prizes, each award winner receives a free student membership in the NGWA for one year, publication of their project abstract in the journal Ground Water, and a groundwater science library for their school.

Judging the prizes for the foundation were Kristine Uhlman, state coordinator, Non-Point Education for Municipal Officials Program, Arizona Cooperative Extension; Robert Frank, project hydrogeologist, CH2M Hill, Tempe, Ariz.; and Paul Plato, senior hydrogeologist, GeoTrans Inc., Cave Creek, Ariz.

Held annually, this international science fair brings together more than 1,200 students from 40 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships and scientific field trips.

For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

Featured Webinar