Student from Providence Heights Alpha School
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania… Josef Blaszkiewicz, an eighth grade student at Providence Heights Alpha School, is the 2011 recipient of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Award. PJAS is a statewide educational organization designed to stimulate and promote interest in science through the development of research investigations for junior and senior and high school students. There are three rounds that compromise each yearly competition: individual school competition, regions, and then a final round held yearly at Penn State University. The Carnegie PJAS Award is presented at the semi-finals level at the annual meeting for Region 7, which serves Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. Blaszkiewicz won for his project, "Bye Bye Bugs! A Study of Homemade Ant Repellents.” The award recognizes outstanding student projects and was presented to Blaszkiewicz on February 5 by Collection Manager of Mammals Suzanne McLaren. The Carnegie PJAS Award supports Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s goals to make science a relevant and important part of people’s everyday lives, to help people identify themselves as users of scientific principles, and to encourage our communities to actively steward the Earth and its resources.
Blaszkiewicz developed an experiment to test the use of a variety of safe household substances as ant repellents. Making sure to use a control group and conducting the experiment over an extended period of time, Blaszkiewicz constructed an elaborate apparatus to observe the attraction or repulsion of ants to substances such as cinnamon, nutmeg and talc. He recognized the possibility that his first construction might not test the hypothesis properly and modified the layout to more rigorously test his ideas. He demonstrated to the judges that he understands the experimental process and what it means to test a hypothesis. Blaszkiewicz’s analysis showed that ants are repelled by cinnamon better than any of the other substances he tested.
Blaszkiewicz’s project was chosen from among the top zoology entries from seventh and eighth grade students representing 77 schools throughout Region 7. Each project must illustrate the student’s understanding of scientific methods and include data collected from a scientific experiment. Details of each experiment are presented orally to a panel of judges and the other entrants. To be eligible for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History PJAS Award, a student must be recommended by consensus of a panel of judges. McLaren served as one of three judges for the session in which Blaszkiewicz’ presented his project. Representing the museum, McLaren then serves as final arbiter and selects the winner from the judges’ recommendations for all Zoology sessions involving seventh and eighth graders, which are based on the merits and uniqueness of the project.
McLaren, who has been selecting the Carnegie PJAS winners since 1984, enjoys the opportunity to present the award during the ceremony at the close of the day. “The students who win the award are always so visibly excited,” says McLaren. “What is exciting to me is seeing how these students employ scientific methods as a professional researcher would, and then use their findings to answer a scientific question that has sparked their curiosity and interest.”
The Carnegie PJAS Award winner receives a Certificate of Excellence, free admission for the student and his family to Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Museum of Art , and a gift certificate to the Natural History Store. In addition to winning the Carnegie Museum of Natural History PJAS Award, Blaszkiewicz’s project received a First Place Award and achieved a perfect score from the PJAS Region 7 judges. He proceeded to the Junior Academy of Science State Finals at Penn State University, held May 15–17.
Josef is the son of Sherri and Michael Blaszkiewicz of Gibsonia. Ms. Linda Cessar, who teaches Science at Providence Heights Alpha School, was Josef’s sponsor.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked among the top five natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 20 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the Web site, www.carnegiemnh.org.
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