By Gerri Miller
An upcoming Stanhope Elmore High School junior selected to represent Alabama in a national science competition said she is passionate about environmental science and that her project is meant to make the public aware of the dangers of water pollution.
Shemai’ya Peak won first place in the school, county, and regional science fairs this year. When it came time to compete for the state science fair, the COVID19 crisis hit and the competition was cancelled. The competition was taken online, and Peak was selected to be Alabama’s representative at nationals.
She is the first student from her school to ever compete in the national level of the competition. The competition is open to any high school student in grades 9 through 12, who has conducted a water-related science project and reached the age of 15 by August 1 of the competition year.
The Alabama Water Environment Association is sponsoring Peak. She is the Alabama winner for the 2020 United States Stockholm Junior Water Prize. If not for current health restrictions, she would have won a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the national competition. Presently, Peak must write a paper, submit her project and a three-minute video online, and participate in an online chat with other state winners. The winner and two runners up will be announced on June 20th.
The national winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship and a trip to Stockholm, Sweden, for the international competition. Two runners up will also receive scholarships. The Stockholm Junior Water Prize aims to increase students’ interest in water issues, research, and careers, as well as to raise awareness about global water challenges. The competition is open to projects focused on improving water quality, water resource management, water protection, drinking water and wastewater treatment.
Peak said she researched projects and came up with the idea that algae could be used in water treatment plants to decontaminate water. She used four contaminated solutions and used the algae to see if it cleaned the water. Her conclusion was that algae is an effective water decontaminate. She said her project was a continuation of her freshman project. Next year she will continue the project using other forms of algae to see if the results are the same.
Jennifer Daniels is one proud teacher. She teaches science and advanced chemistry at Stanhope and has guided Peak throughout her competitions. “She is such a dedicated worker,” Daniels said. “She would come to the chemistry lab during her flex time to work on her project. She basically lived there from October through December.”
Somehow Peak has still managed to maintain a 4.0 average and participate in numerous clubs and activities. She is in the Beta Club, Junior Civitan, Debate Club, Key Club, the Science National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Student Government Association, the Junior ROTC Academic Team, and the Girls’ Tennis Team. She was the secretary of the Sophomore Class.
She said she wants to attend Auburn University and play on the Women’s Tennis Team. She plans to do her graduate work at either John Hopkins University or Emery University. She plans to become a pediatrician.
Peak said she started competing in science fairs in the seventh grade and at first she didn’t like the events. “I am really glad that my teacher encouraged me and got me more interested in doing the projects and competing,” she said.
Peak’s mother, Susan Glover, said her daughter doesn’t require much help at home on her projects. “She is pretty much self-driven,” Glover said. “You can give her a task and she will complete it with little or no supervision.”
Daniels is still in awe of how Peak took a subject she is passionate about and developed a viable research project around it. “I think it’s amazing that she is doing a project that is so applicable to our world today,” Daniels said.