No idea is too small and if you believe in it, you can achieve it with hard work.
Seth Niemann, an eighth grader at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Louisville, has already learned this lesson firsthand.
When Niemann was in sixth grade, he discovered an interest in science. For his first science fair entry, the then 12-year-old thought outside of the box. He came up with an idea to use milkweed to clean up an oil spill.
“I didn’t believe my project to be a very good project because others were doing cellular and molecular projects, but my science teacher, Mr. Fred Whittaker, filled me with confidence by telling me my project could win at regionals if I put in the work. This got me more invested,” Niemann said.
He didn’t win that year, but Niemann kept putting in the work. Each year, he modified the project a little here and a little there. It paid off earlier this month. Niemann won the Louisville Water Company prize at the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair (LRSEF).
“After you put in the hours of work, pages of writing, seeing everything come together, and getting to present it to judges in person makes you feel so accomplished,” said Niemann. ”As the cherry on top, your project may actually work and could be used in the real world of science!
He’s definitely earned the right to feel proud.
So what planted the seed for his project? In 2020, an oil tanker ran aground off the coast of the Indian Ocean. Niemann wanted to figure out how to help clean up the leaking oil.
“I went to my science teacher, Mr. Whittaker, and we came up with milkweed. This led to now where I have added titanium dioxide, a photocatalyst to clean up oil spills because of its ability to break down oil.”
While the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio wouldn’t have benefited from Niemann’s research, it did get him thinking.
“I think a lot of us take water for granted and we need to start caring more about water,” he said.
Louisville Water couldn’t agree more!
As a sponsor of the LRSEF, Louisville Water donated reusable Louisville Pure Tap® bottles for students and judges to fill up at one of the many hydration stations at UofL.
On top of winning the Louisville Water prize money, Niemann placed second at regionals. He’s headed to the state science fair this weekend at Eastern Kentucky University.