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Local Student Takes Second Place
in Prestigious National Science Competition

Blake feeds the ants.

Blake Thompson, a seventh-grader at Ft. Clarke Middle School, has taken second place in the prestigious national Young Scientist Challenge, sponsored by the Discovery Channel.

Blake was one of forty finalists nationwide to present their projects to judges in Washington D.C. during the past few days. As the second-place winner he receives a $7500 scholarship and will be featured on an upcoming Discovery Channel program.

Blake and Eastside High freshman Sravya Keremane were both selected as finalists in the national competition. The program recognizes students who demonstrate the best leadership, teamwork, communication and scientific problem-solving skills. Sravya won two special awards in Washington. The first was the Discovery Wings Channel Aviation Camp Award, which includes a scholarship to a one-week flight camp in Wisconsin. The second was the National Park Service Explorer award, which includes a one week trip to Yellowstone National Park.

"We are so proud of these outstanding students," said Superintendent Dan Boyd. "They were up against the best of the best, and they did very well. It's wonderful that their talent and hard work have been recognized and rewarded."

Thompson is one of only four finalists who developed their projects as sixth-graders. His project, entitled "Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta), the Unbeatable," charts the long-term impact of chemical pesticides on fire ants. It was a project that grew out of a concern for others.

"A friend of mine has gotten sick several times from the use of pesticides, and my mom and I have talked a lot about the effect of pesticides on the environment," he said.

Thompson's talents aren't limited to science. He also earns praise from teachers at Ft. Clarke for his artistic and musical abilities — he took up the saxophone about a year ago, and last year won a poster contest at school.

Blake says Melissa Bozeman, his sixth-grade teacher at Ft. Clark, is his mentor. "She recognized my scientific ability and helped to expand it," he said.

"Blake is an amazing young man and is so deserving of this recognition," said Bozeman. "It's been my pleasure to watch him grow — a future scientist in the making."

This was the second time Keremane had been named a finalist in the Young Scientist program. She developed her winning project, "Agrobacterium-Mediated Transformation of Citrus and Tomato for Enhancing Cold Tolerance," while a student at Howard Bishop Middle School. Her multi-year project involves transferring genes into citrus plants to make them cold tolerant, a development that could be a boon to Florida's economy.