PORTER TOWNSHIP | Brandon Benninger is too young to have a “bucket list,” but that doesn’t mean he isn’t already achieving his dreams.
The Boone Grove High School senior’s goal this year was to attend his third competition at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., last month.
Benninger accomplished that goal, and more, winning fourth place out of 270 entries in the Environmental Management/Environmental Science category. Benninger was one of 1,600 students from 70 countries who competed in the weeklong event.
Winning the award on his birthday — May 17 — was the icing on the cake.
“My biggest goal, since I was a freshman, was to get up on that gigantic stage,” Benninger said. “It was kind of prestigious. It was the perfect birthday present and the four-year culmination of everything I’ve done.”
Benninger’s project, which he started in 2011 as a sophomore, was to research the Army Corps of Engineers’ electronic fish barrier on the Sanitary and Ship Canal in Romeoville, Ill., designed to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
From his research, Benninger designed his own “more effective” version of the barrier that he said is also easier to maintain. He already has obtained a provisional patent on the design and hopes to have a meeting with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers this summer to discuss his idea.
Winning awards is not new to Benninger, as he also won the first place President’s Award for the last four years at the regional Northwest Indiana Science and Engineering Fair at Valparaiso University. Benninger also earned the Top Young Scientist award and the Joe B. Weaver Scholarship at the state-level 2013 Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis.
The scholarships accompanying these prizes will fund nearly his entire four-year college career, said Benninger. In the fall, he will attend Valparaiso University to study environmental management, and with degree in hand, he hopes to work in the conservation field.
“It would be perfect to pursue invasive species research,” said Benninger. “I want to be knee deep in mud doing samples and stuff.”
As if winning science fair awards was not enough, Benninger is also a championship llama showman. His parents, Rusty and Leann Benninger, are the Porter County 4-H Llama Project superintendents.
The Benningers are justifiably proud of their son, who will graduate from Boone Grove today with honors.
“He’s had a good run, and he’s going to end up on Boone Grove’s Wall of Fame,” said Leann Benninger. “He’s going to go out shining.”