Science fair projects put spotlight on two local students

2013-04-23T20:00:00Z 2013-04-24T23:22:05Z Science fair projects put spotlight on two local studentsBy Susan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com

The desire to make life better for people in the region and the world inspired two local youngsters to create prize winning science projects.

Munster High School senior Nathan Kondamuri saw how floods devastated parts of Northwest Indiana several years ago and sought ways to harness the power of nature to provide energy in a more efficient way, according to an overview of his project.

Kondamuri, of Munster, was selected to present his work at the 2013 White House Science Fair Monday in the nation's capital, becoming the only Indiana student chosen this year for the honor.

And 10-year-old Annie Ostojic, of Munster, captured first place in her division this year at the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis. The first-place win was Ostojic's third in three years at the event.

For three years, Kondamuri conducted research on a new solar cell that creates electricity by mimicking photosynthesis.

Ostojic, a fifth-grader at Frank H. Hammond Elementary School in Munster, said she hit on her project idea after watching a neighbor struggle with heavy drywall during a basement remodeling project.

"I wondered how I could make drywall lighter than it is," while retaining its strength, Ostojic said. She designed drywall composed of hexagonal paper prisms sandwiched between foam boards for her exhibit titled "A light sandwich."

"My structure held 150 pounds," Ostojic said.

Like her third- and fourth-grade projects, this one was inspired by her observations of the world around her.

"I look around and wonder how I can help people," she said.

Kondamuri said he was particularly happy to represent Indiana at the White House Science Fair, an event toured by President Barack Obama.

"We have great teachers and schools here, and a lot can be accomplished right here in Indiana if you are willing to put in the work," Kondamuri said.

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