When Homestead High School senior Rutva Shah learned of a remedy for teenage acne she was curious why the stuff worked.
And that?s where the science comes in.
The 18-year-old says she discovered azadirachta indica, better known as neem, during family vacations to India and Costa Rica, where the herb is widely used.
?I wanted to know why it helped clear my face,? said Shah, one of some 200 students who participated in the 59th Northeast Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday at IPFW.
Shah found out that neem is used in tropical regions for purposes as varied as home remedies and shampoo.
?What I learned was that it wasn?t what neem was doing, but the effect it had on the immune system,? Shah said. ?That?s what made it so effective.?
Students from kindergarten through 12th grade showcased their exhibits, but more importantly their research with judges who had the tough task picking the top projects from a field of 53 area schools.
?It?s not an easy job,? said Carol Dostal, coordinator of the regional science exhibition. ?The event really is about the students and letting them shine. These are some really bright kids who participate.?
Judges looked for students who best applied scientific methods, proposed a sound hypothesis and tested their findings.
Dostal said up to 20 students in grades six through 12 could be selected to move on to the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis on April 5. On Saturday, they competed for numerous awards, including $2,500 in cash prizes, courtesy of local businesses and organizations.
While it would be great to win, Aboite Elementary School fourth-grader Jared Sagan says if nothing else, his project might help him make a half-court shot. He studied what trajectory would make a basketball travel the farthest. Jared said the best angle is between 45 and 60 degrees.
Amid the clamor, Jared and his father, Jason, did find time for a private moment that ended with giving each other a high-five, while waiting on results.
?He had kind of a rough day, his team lost a semifinal game at the Jorgensen YMCA in the final seconds,? Jason Sagan said. ?What I like about him participating in the science fair is that it teaches him to think methodical and he?ll need that in whatever he decides to do later in life.?
Jared calls it edutainment.
?You get to learn something and it can be really cool and fun at the same time,? he said.