Oviedo sophomore all the buzz after bee, plant conservation project wins science center competition

Orlando Science Center holds annual Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition for high school students

A local high school student recently took home a big prize after winning the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A local high school student recently took home a big prize after winning the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition.

The competition celebrates high school students who are using science and independent research to benefit humanity.

Ying has partnered with the Orlando Science Center for the competition since 1999. Each year, five finalists are selected to present their research to a panel, which later determines a winner.

[TRENDING: Orlando couple out nearly $5K after ATM takeover scheme | Video: Parkgoer removes alligator from Wekiva Springs swimming area | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

“So these kids are working on solutions to things like climate change, environmental issues, technology issues, disease. They really are working to make the world a better place,” said Jeff Stanford, the vice president of marketing at OSC. “The one thing I do take from this is I feel the world is in good hands. These are some incredible minds, really tackling some of these big issues.”

This year, Oviedo High School sophomore Ella Pilacek won the first-place prize of $5,000, in turn earning $1,000 for her science teacher and another $1,000 for her school.

Pilacek’s family raises honeybees and she trained the bees to associate the smell of endangered plant species with a food source. She calls this “foundational research,” which can help with conservation by lessening the impacts of habitat fragmentation. Pilacek said her research took place over the course of a year.

She encourages other students to work on their own independent research projects.

“You just have to start small with something you’re truly interested in and something you think you can handle. And do a ton of background research and put in the effort and you can make a small contribution to our understanding of everything,” she said.

The other finalists were Kyra Henriques, of Oviedo High School, Lavanya Natarajan, of Viera High School, Varun Madan, of Lake Highland Preparatory School, and Atreya Manaswi, of Orlando Science High School.

The Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition is open to high school students in the nine-county area OSC serves. Those interested in participating must submit research that has the ultimate goal of benefitting humanity. For more information about how to enter next year’s competition, email competitions@osc.org.

About the Author:

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.