Marfa High School students travel to Atlanta to compete in international science fair 

Marfa High School juniors Juan Avila, Alexis Gonzales and Aubrie Aguilar competed this week in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Donaldson.

ATLANTA — Marfa High School juniors Juan Avila, Alexis Gonzales and Aubrie Aguilar are competing this week in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta with their microbiology project titled, “Germs and You.”

Results on the team’s placement have yet to be determined, but a virtual tour of their project booth can be seen on ISEF’s website. The students traveled to present their project to ISEF judges with science teacher Elizabeth Donaldson. 

“We are all so proud of Aubrie, Juan and Alexis as well as their science teacher, Lizzy Donaldson. What started as a fun experiment for a local science fair, has taken them all the way to an international competition,” said Junior and High School Principal Allison Scott. 

The team qualified for the International Science and Engineering Fair earlier in February at a regional science fair competition held at the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) where the team was awarded overall best in show. Only one project at the UTPB science fair is selected to bypass state and attend nationals. At that competition they also placed first in the senior division. 

Competing at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta are 1,410 other projects from 63 countries, regions and territories, according to ISEF’s website.

“They have had a tremendous opportunity to travel and meet students from around the state and the country. It’s also special because they represent a small, frontier school with limited resources, yet they are competing on a national level,” said Scott. 

The student’s project involves studying the spread of germs, an issue top of mind for many in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, by analyzing handwashing and mask wearing behaviors. Students were curious to learn whether elementary school students or secondary students were more likely to be at risk from the spread of germs. The team utilized glow power, a UV light and went into elementary and high school classrooms to test their hypothesis. 

The students reported, via email, that they were having fun in Atlanta and making new memories. 

“The science fair was where I made friends with a few people from Florida and had conversations with kids from all over the world. My legs are definitely going to need some rest with all the walking we’ve done so far to places like the Georgia Aquarium and Coca Cola Factory! Maybe next year will be another opportunity for even more memories. Thank you to everyone for supporting us,” said Aguilar. 

“I wasn’t expecting to make it this far and be able to compete against earth’s greatest young minds. The trip is fun and very eventful. Especially leaving the airplane and getting to Atlanta for the first time,” said Avila. 

“This was an amazing experience and I learned so much from coming to ISEF. It is so crazy to see the diversity of people here and it was something I will never forget!” said Gonzales.