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Published Wednesday March 31, 2021

Arizona Students Awarded $127,534 in Scholarships and Prizes at SARSEF Events in March

Students from across the state competed at SARSEF events this month to be encouraged, recognized, and awarded for their work.

Press Release – PDF

March 31, 2021

(Tucson, AZ) In March, SARSEF events provided students the opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their work in science and engineering. Many received cash prizes for their achievements.

The 66th SARSEF Science and Engineering Fair Powered by TEP showcased the work of 2,900 students, pre-kindergarten through high school, from across Southern Arizona. $117,809 in awards and scholarships were given out to students as well as teachers who went above and beyond to support their students’ work.

Grand awards were determined by 204 volunteer judges who reviewed projects and interviewed students in order to determine the winners.

“My favorite part was actually the challenge. For the first time in my life, I constructed something without any help, which is out of my comfort zone, and I succeeded in creating something at least semi-functional. I cannot describe the joy that brought me. To top it all, my hypothesis was confirmed. I felt like a scientist and an engineer, and I felt hopeful for my future in STEM,” shared SARSEF Winner Amanda Whalen from Veritas Christian Community School.

Whalen designed and built a wind turbine tower that utilized the structure of a saguaro cactus to determine if the pleats and spines would better utilize winds to produce more electricity.

Eight high school students will continue on to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair: Ethan Lee (University High School), Esha Mathur (University High School), Karah Mayer (Tanque Verde High School), Alexander Nelson (Nelson Home School), Andrea Romero (Harvest Preparatory Academy), Isabel Ross (Cienega High School), Aaron Trinh (Canyon del Oro High School), and Amanda Whalen (Veritas Christian Community School).

For the first year, SARSEF also hosted the Arizona Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (AZ JSHS). The program is a competition promoting original research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and math at the high school level and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. This year, the event included 55 oral presenters and 12 poster presenters from across the state. $9,725 in awards and scholarships were given out to students who won top prizes at the virtual event as determined by 21 volunteer judges.

Ella Wang, who attends BASIS Chandler and won first place at AZ JSHS encouraged other students to get involved in scientific research.

“It might seem scary or difficult to undertake a research project, but the truth is, research is simply exploring your interests at a deeper level, and along the way you’ll find that you learn so much from the experience,” Wang explained. “Whether it’s in a lab or in your basement, research can begin anywhere, so don’t limit yourself and dream big. If you ever feel lost or aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to peers, teachers, or mentors – they are your friends and will always be there to help you, and you will make some of the closest connections through science.”

Wang created a computer vision-enhanced mobile imaging system for rapid, inexpensive, and automated screening of hematological diseases using deep learning.

Five students will continue on to compete at the National JSHS competition: Ella Wang (BASIS Chandler), Arun Moorthy (BASIS Scottsdale), Samira Nassi Celaya (Tucson High Magnet School), Megan Bime (Catalina Foothills High School), and Isabel Ross (Cienega High School).

In April, 9 teams of Arizona students will compete in Racing the Sun, an engineering program for high school students that design, build and race solar-powered go-karts with the help of volunteer mentors.

To learn more about SARSEF programs and how students, teachers, and families can get involved, visit or email