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Students from Calvin Christian School and Memorial Jr. High earn gold at state science fair

Students invited to submit application for national science fair recognition

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (May 3, 2023) – Students throughout Calvin Christian School in South Holland took a quick break on Tuesday morning to congratulate eight middle schoolers who competed at a statewide science fair last weekend. Two of the eight received a gold finish, which earns them a chance to apply to have their science project recognized at a national science fair.

In Lansing, after Memorial Jr. High organized a fanfare-filled send-off for its state science fair competitors last week, four of the nine students earned a gold finish, and the same chance at national recognition.

science fair
The state science fair was hosted by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Over 850 projects were presented. (Photo provided by Angela Albrecht)

Calvin Christian

Starting at one end of the school, the eight students ran through the halls collecting applause, cheers, and high-fives before running up the stairs to the second floor to do more of the same.

science fair
After returning from the state science fair competition over the weekend, eight Calvin Christian School students “ran the halls” in celebration, receiving high-fives and applause from the rest of the school. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Of the nine students that earned a trip to the regional science fair, eight were invited to bring their projects to the state competition on Saturday at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Those eight students and their projects are listed below:

  • Madison Dodd – Levels of Concentration With and Without Sound
  • Brandon Shepherd – How Rockets Work
  • Aiden Wade – Pencil Resistors
  • Thomas Sliekers – Color Memory
  • Nasharee Kelly – Does Music Improve Grades?
  • Joshua Scurry – Atmospheric Water Generation
  • Collin Porter – Never Fear – Water is Here!
  • Autumn Zekveld – Homemade Fertilizer and Plants
The eight Calvin Christian state science fair competitors, from left: Madison Dodd – Levels of Concentration With and Without Sound, Brandon Shepherd – How Rockets Work, Aiden Wade – Pencil Resistors, Thomas Sliekers – Color Memory, Nasharee Kelly – Does Music Improve Grades?, Joshua Scurry – Atmospheric Water Generation, Collin Porter – Never Fear – Water is Here!, Autumn Zekveld – Homemade Fertilizer and Plants. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Gold winners

Only 10% of the roughly 850 students received a gold finish at the state competition, and from Calvin Christian, the two students that earned the honor were Brandon Shepherd and Collin Porter.

“I’m quite proud of them,” said John Nutter, middle school math and science teacher at Calvin Christian. “They both did more research than what was necessary for the project, which allowed them to learn even more than what they might have in the past. It’s really cool that we can give God the glory with all the gifts that we have.”

science fair
From left: Calvin Christian School seventh-grader Brandon Shepherd, middle school math and science teacher John Nutter, and eighth-grader Collin Porter. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Brandon Shepherd

Shepherd is interested in space and astronomy, and wanted to explore the idea of rocket propulsion as part of his project. He created 10 homemade rockets and tested different combustion methods to launch them. He also compared his rockets to a store-bought propeller-based rocket.

“[Rockets] are made of four major systems: structural, payload, guidance, and propulsion,” Shepherd said.

At a park near his house, Shepherd increased his rocket launch distance from 24 meters to 52 meters, measured using a handheld altitude finder.

Shepherd also researched the history of rockets and propulsion in the last 100 years.

“I guess you could say my science fair project was a combination between science and history,” Shepherd said.

Collin Porter 

Porter’s project focused on hydroponics, which involves growing plants without soil, instead using a water solution that is rich in nutrients. Porter compared a commercial water solution to his own, which he made out of coffee grounds, banana peels, baked egg shells, manure compost, mushroom compost, and distilled water.

“My homemade solution did just as well, if not better, than the commercial solution did,” said Porter. “I did a project last year on biomass, so that helped me learn about nutrients.”

Porter grew lettuce, mint, and pepper plants as part of his experiment.

“Hydroponics uses 90% less water and it can be done from anywhere,” he said.

Beyond earning a gold finish, Porter earned additional awards from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Junior Innovators Challenge.

“I feel proud of myself. I felt accomplished,” Porter said.

Memorial Jr. High

At the same state competition, nine Memorial students spent Saturday at the science fair presenting their own projects and examining others’. Four student projects earned gold in the competition.

The full list of state competitors is below, with the gold-winners in bold:

  • Anay Aleman, Grade 7: Are Cats Right or Left Pawed? (Behavioral Science)
  • Josiah Carter, Grade 7: Dribble It! (Physics)
  • Science fair
    Josiah Carter, Grade 7: Dribble It! (Photo provided)
  • Miguel Chavez and Julian Rivera, Grade 8: Does a Homemade Water Filter Have Cleaner Water than a Manufactured Water Filter? (Environmental Science)
  • Kyle Jones, Grade 7: Do Submarines Need Fins? (Physics Experimental)
  • Kyle Jones, Grade 7: Do Submarines Need Fins? (Photo provided)
  • Drew Losnedahl, Grade 7: Discovering the Optimal Growing Conditions of Oyster Mushrooms (Botany) – Drew received a perfect score at Regionals
  • science fair
    Drew Losnedahl, Grade 7: Discovering the Optimal Growing Conditions of Oyster Mushrooms (Photo provided)
  • Mya Major, Grade 8: Does Different Type of Music Affect Heart Rate? (Behavioral Science)
  • Szion Pullin, Grade 8: Do Plants Need Electrolytes? (Botany)
  • Szion Pullin, Grade 8: Do Plants Need Electrolytes? (Photo provided)
  • Benjamin Williams, Grade 7: Can Temperature Change the Strength of a Magnet? (Physics)

“I am so proud of the hard work and long hours these boys put into their projects,” said Angela Albrecht, 7th grade science teacher at Memorial. “The time spent not only to create a neat and eye-appealing visual display board, but also the time doing background research and compiling a research report packet. Each of them shared their expertise on their own project with ease and confidence. All their efforts paid off, and the relief and joy they had was well deserved. We are very proud of all our Mighty Mustangs that competed.”

Gold-winning students from Memorial and Calvin Christian are invited to submit an application to the national science fair, where further recognition is possible.

Calvin Christian School is located at 528 E 161st Place in South Holland. Memorial Junior High School is located at 2721 Ridge Road in Lansing, Illinois.


Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.


  1. Congratulations to both schoo;s scientists. mustangs you have made Lsnsing proud ! Hope to see you all in the Good Neighbor Parade ! 🙂

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