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Nashua student places first in state science fair, heads to international competition

NASHUA – A Nashua student placed first in the New Hampshire Science and Engineering Exposition, the state science fair for high school students, last week in Concord, and will be the first New Hampshire student to represent the state at an international science fair this spring.

Out of 125 high school students, Deepika Kurup from Nashua High School South placed first in the environmental science category, and first overall, for her design to purify water using sunlight.

She will also be the first student to represent the New Hampshire Science and Engineering Expo at the International Science and Engineering Fair, or ISEF, in Pittsburgh this May.

“Science fairs have always been a big part of my life, and I am very excited that other students in New Hampshire now have the same opportunities to compete internationally,” said Kurup.

New Hampshire had been one of a handful of states not participating in ISEF until this year, she said.

Kurup has been a part of the New Hampshire science fair since her freshman year, and said the competition has really evolved. Being the only representative from South, Kurup said she didn’t know anyone at the fair, but students were open with sharing ideas with each other.

“I’ve been able to see how the fair has grown, and how much the presentations have increased in quality,” she said. “The environment was really friendly, everyone was talking about their projects.”

Kurup’s project, “Novel Photocatalytic Pervious Composites for Removing Multiple Classes of Toxins from Water,” was inspired by the worldwide need for sustainable clean water sources. She first got the idea while traveling to India with her family where she saw the need clean water.

The portable, low-cost system works by using sunlight and a photocatalytic composite of titanium dioxide and silver nitrate. By adding a catalytic rod to water containers exposed to sunlight, most contaminants are eliminated after several hours.

The project and idea behind it has been internationally recognized over the past several years. Kurup received the 2014 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize, the 2013 President’s Environmental Youth Award and the 2012 Discovery Young Scientist Challenge.

She was also included in Forbes’ 30-Under-30 list in its energy section, and recognized by Governor Hassan in her January inaugural address.

The event, which included students from central and southern New Hampshire public and private high schools, was held at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. Students competed for prizes in separate categories such as physics and electronics, mathematics, biochemistry and behavioral science.

The top three winners overall were Kurup, Hyun Jo Kim from St. Paul’s School in second and Callie Cinque from Souhegan High School in third.

Hyun Jo Kim, from St. Paul’s School, took first in the engineering category for “Research on the Feasibility of Cardiac Output Estimation using Photoplethysmogram and Ballistocardiogram.”

Cinque placed first in Behavioral Science for the project “Can I Trust You? Exploring how gender and familiarity affect trust between teenagers.”

More than 70 judges with backgrounds in science and academics assessed the 75 research projects.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_TinaF.