Local middle school student finalist in national STEM competition

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An area student will be traveling to Washington, DC later this month as a finalist for a national STEM competition.

Regan Williams, a Roland-Grise Middle School (RGMS) student, is one of over 6,000 students across the country in grades 6-8 to enter the Broadcom MASTERS® national STEM competition.

On September 30, she was selected as one of 30 finalists in the annual contest.  Finalists are competing for more than $100,000 in awards.

All finalists receive a $500 cash award and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC for the competition.  Winners will be named on October 24, after the finalists complete a competition that will test their abilities in STEM, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.

“Playing the cello and lacrosse are my favorite things to do,” Regan Williams says.  Her other activities include soccer, basketball, and fencing.  She would like to become an epidemiologist.  “Human-animal interactions are becoming more common as a result of climate change and habitat destruction,” she says. Regan hopes to help control diseases that could spread to people from those interactions.

Broadcom MASTERS® (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars), a program founded and produced by the Society for Science and the Public, seeks to inspire young scientists, engineers, and innovators who will solve the grand challenges of the future.  Regan’s project, Marsh Attacks: Context-dependent Effects of Intraspecific Trait Variation in a Marsh Ecosystem Predator-prey Interaction, caught the attention of judges and she was named a member of the top 300 MASTERS® in the Broadcom MASTERS® national middle school science competition.

Regan loves exploring coastal ecosystems.  Her favorite is a salt marsh.

It’s much more than “just a bunch of grass,” she says.  “Once you take a closer look you see that it has many diverse animals that interact in amazing ways to impact how the entire marsh functions.”

For example, marsh periwinkle snails eat plants, which keeps plants from growing out of control.  Meanwhile, blue crabs prey on snails, which controls snail populations and protects marsh plants.  Regan noticed that the smaller snails seemed to climb higher on salt marsh plant stalks.  She thought they might be trying to escape the snail’s main predator, the blue crab, so she decided to investigate.  The results of Regan’s project suggested that if people overfish large blue crabs from salt marshes, which could alter the balance between the snails and crabs.  And that “could, ultimately, alter marsh productivity,” Regan warns.

Categories: Community, Local, New Hanover