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Mastodon Student Wins FIRST PLACE at International Fair!

St. Louis Area Teen Wins 1st Prize at the International “Olympics of Science Fairs”

Hillsboro, Mo. – St. Louis is on the map in the worldwide science community – Nick Wamsley, 16, Pacific won first place in Microbiology – a first for our entire region – at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Why is this BIG NEWS? The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public (SSP), is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition and was founded in 1950. At Intel ISEF, approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions, and territories are awarded the opportunity to showcase and compete with their independent research.

Wamsley’s Intel ISEF awards include First Place in Microbiology, a research stipend of approximately $2500 and an academic scholarship “Provost Scholarship” of about $12,000 to his “dream swim school” Arizona State University.

“The interviews with the judges went well. I didn’t expect much, I was hoping for maybe fourth place,” Wamsley said. “At the awards ceremony they announced fourth place and third place winners, once they got on to second place I wasn’t expecting to win anything. Then when they got to first place they called out ‘Pacific Missouri’ and Luke (Little) and I just looked at each other. I was pretty shocked. It was really cool.”

“This international recognition reinforces what we see in the promise of this generation,” said Jennifer Price, Executive Director of Mastodon Art/Science Regional Fair, serving all students K-12 in 6 Missouri counties and one in Illinois. “Nick Wamsley has discovered a way to save the Ash Trees – organically – with potentially only one treatment. Millions of these trees here in the United States have been killed by a beetle. This high school student’s science project has the makings to save millions of trees,” Price said.

Incredibly, a second St. Louis-area teen also won honors at Intel ISEF in Phoenix, AZ. Luke Little, 16, Pacific, won a $250 award from the American Society for Horticultural Science. Wamsley and Little are only the third and fourth students to ever win prizes as representatives of Mastodon Fair – and Wamsley is the first academic scholarship award winner from Mastodon Fair, who has been sending top student winners to ISEF for more than 15 years. Wamsley and Little are both sophomores at Timber Ridge Scholars, a three family home school co-op in Pacific, Missouri.

How Did They Get There?  Wamsley and Little were tapped as top winners in March at St. Louis’s own Mastodon Art/Science Regional Fair, the largest Art and Science Regional Fair in the United States. They won several awards at Mastodon Fair including Mastodon’s two spots to compete in the Intel ISEF including expense paid trips to the competitions for the students and their teacher (and in Nick’s case, Mom) Pamela Wamsley. Wamsley won more than $6,000 in scholarship and awards at Mastodon Fair funded by St. Louis area businesses and organizations including: The Govero Land Surveying $1,000 Scholarship; Mastodon Science Division Award – High School Division, the ISEF Finalist Award sponsored by Mercy Hospital Jefferson and the Mastodon Park Committee, and the I-SWEEEP (International Sustainable World Project Olympiad) all expense-paid trip.

Little also won more than $5,000 in awards including the ISEF Finalist Award, the I-SWEEEP Award and a $1,000 Science Scholarship sponsored by Monsanto Company.

“As a teacher and home schooling mom, I feel great that we are accomplishing this!” said Pam Wamsley. “As a mom you are super-proud of your kids.” Pam Wamsley said the win was unexpected. “We were incredibly surprised. A lot of times you know you won, you expect it – when you swim, you touch the wall, you know you win,” Pam Wamsley said. “There were so many good projects. It was such a great surprise for him to be recognized.”

Timber Ridge Scholars have been involved with Mastodon Fair for four years. Pam Wamsley is a first-year participant in Mastodon Fair’s Science Coach Program where science teachers get paid a stipend and receive money to spend on purchasing equipment and needed materials for students’ projects. “When I get to talk to other Science Coaches in the program, they are great people to ask for advice.  I also learn from teachers who have been doing this for a long time for the kids. This is a learning process for parents and teachers. It is great to get involved when the kids are younger so they can grow from there. The kids could not do these projects without the stipend.”

What’s next for Nick Wamsley? “I know there is a lot of improvement to be done with the project. I’m really looking forward to moving forward with the project, do more and doing better work with it.” Wamsley said he hopes to continue with this science project and others in his upcoming high school years as well as continue as a competitive swimmer. “I want to continue with science and get swim scholarships. Then I want to get a Masters in comitology and become a dentist,” Wamsley said.

Wamsley’s advice to other students… “You don’t have to be incredibly smart, I’m not super smart. You have to have a good idea, practice talking up your project. Most people say they wouldn’t understand the project. It’s not about being insanely intelligent. It’s about learning about something.  I didn’t know I could work at that level. You don’t have to be a math geek. I happened on this idea, made a connection that hadn’t been made before and I pursued it.

How does science impact Wamsley’s life? “I apply scientific process in swimming, in swimming you make hundreds of minor changes to improve and get faster. Same as you apply it to science,” Nick Wamsley said. “I look at how other people approached their projects and applied it myself.”

In April, Wamsley and Little also won Mastodon’s top honors to compete against 385 students from 62 countries at the 9th Annual International Sustainable World (Energy, Engineering & Environment) Project Olympiad (I-SWEEEP), held in Houston Texas in April. Little received an Honorable Mention and Wamsley received a Gold (First Place) Rating, the 12th highest score in the entire competition

“Getting the text then the call from Pam Wamsley about the awards is a great reminder of why Mastodon Fair exists for the students in our community,” said Jennifer Price, Executive Director of Mastodon Art/Science Regional Fair. “I am making it my goal for all teachers to have access to creative curriculum for science projects, for schools to have access to the Science Coach Program and for our community to support STEAM education provided by Mastodon Fair.  Our most important goal is for students to get the opportunity to learn the scientific process and try it. It is a great life lesson and memory to participate in Mastodon Fair – in both the art and science aspects.”

Mastodon Art/Science Regional Fair is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports K-12th grade students, teachers, and parents reach the goal of submitting creative and innovative science and art projects at the annual regional competition held each March at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri. As the largest combined art and science fair in the United States, our mission is the promotion of art and science education through competitive events. We strive to inspire creative solutions from competing students, encouraging our students to explore the Art in science and the Science in art. Over $55,000 in prizes, trips and scholarships are annually awarded to winning projects from public, private and home schooled students from 7 counties in the St. Louis region including Missouri Counties of Crawford, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, and Washington and Brown County in Illinois. View more information at:

Mastodon Fair… STEAM Education since 1979…


The Award Winning Projects…

Nick Wamsley, 16, Sophomore, Timber Ridge Scholars
Save Ash Trees from Extinction – Organically

Most people do not know that there were eight billion Ash trees in North America and that in the past ten years, twenty-five million have been destroyed by the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle the length of a fingernail. According to The New York Times (, entomologists have given up on saving the Ash trees in our forests. There are simply too many, the insect is spreading too fast, and chemical pesticides have to applied every year to be effective. Nick’s research shows an organic pesticide, using fungi, which he has proven to be as effective against this insect’s larvae as the toxic chemical pesticides typically used.

His organic pesticide can solve this. It only needs to be applied once, and can grow in a symbiotic relationship with the tree, providing it with a permanent defense mechanism against this invasive pest. Imagine, if we were to lose eight billion of our trees. He spent the last four months screening strains of entomopathogenic fungi from the family Metarhizium Anisopliae against Emerald Ash Borer larvae that he and his teacher, Pamela Wamsley, received using a USDA-ARS permit from a biocontrol facility in Brighton, MI. Never before has anyone tried to use pesticides made from this fungi to combat the Emerald Ash Borer larvae. His results showed that one of the strains he tested, was the most virulent strain with a 100% death and sporulation rate in my immersion bioassay trials.  He also ran some application tests in my lab and determined that the fungi could penetrate the bark layer and infect the larvae. This means the organic pesticide can be applied via a cover spray of the tree’s trunk. He is looking forward to running some real world trials this spring.  The most exciting thing about this organic pesticide is its potential to act as a permanent, organic defense mechanism against this pest.


Luke Little, 16, Sophomore, Timber Ridge Scholars,
Aquaponics + Less Fish Food = More People Fed
Duckweed is a small aquatic plant that has very similar nutritional content to fish food which allows it to be used as the main feed source for fish without reducing growth rates compared to traditional methods. Typical aquaponics is a container with a plant growing and in the second container fish, blue gill. Luke’s research Introduced Duckweed in a third container into the aquaponics system and feeding it to the blue gill resulted in 60% less feed than the control system. The drastic reduction of costs makes aquaponics a solution for the people who are in desperate need of a cost-effective, water and land conserving, sustainable form of agriculture.

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