UW News

April 12, 2016

UW undergrads to present at national science festivals in D.C.

UW News

Two national celebrations of science are happening this week in D.C., and University of Washington undergraduates will be in the spotlight at both events.

people around silver tank

Clara Orndorff (left) and teammates set up their demo Tuesday on the White House lawn.AMNO & CO.

Clara Orndorff, a pre-engineering undergraduate in the UW Honors Program, will travel with two fellow underwater roboticists to compete in Wednesday’s White House Science Fair. She will be among more than 100 top students who will showcase their projects, perhaps even to President Barack Obama, at the sixth annual event launched by his administration. The science fair will be livestreamed Wednesday, April 13 starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time (10 a.m. Pacific time).

Orndorff and her teammates were inspired to build their first remotely operated underwater vehicle in 2010 by UW oceanographers who volunteer with the Pacific Northwest Marine Advanced Technology Education Center. The students have built a new robot for each contest since, and UW researchers helped coach the three-person team to an international first place last year in Newfoundland, Canada. Hear the team present its winning technology.

four people with trophy

Clara Orndorff holds the first-place trophy in July with teammates Nicholas Orndorff (l) and Alex Miller. At right is team advisor Rick Rupan, a UW research engineer in oceanography.AMNO & CO.

Orndorff, who plans to pursue mechanical engineering, said the team members were putting the final touches on their robot this week and hoping they will have a chance to show it off to President Obama. Teammates Nicholas Orndorff, a student at Ingraham High School, and Alex Miller, a student at Garfield High School, are also attending the event.

And it turns out the White House science fair is followed by an even bigger science shindig.

portraitThorsen Wehr, a UW freshman and pre-major in computer science, will speak Thursday as part of the lead-up to the nation’s largest public science festival, the USA Science Festival. Wehr is among more than 30 student and professional speakers at the X-Stem ‘Extreme Science’ Symposium, taking place 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time April 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Wehr’s presentation will tell his own story, starting in the small town of Odessa, Washington, where his fascination with sound waves led him to publish his first research article in 2014. His talk will encourage middle- and high school students to get an early start on research.

Wehr placed first in computer science at the 2015 Washington State Science & Engineering Fair. At the UW, he is supported by a Washington State Opportunity Scholarship. Wehr’s travel expenses to D.C. are covered by the Sigma Xi Society.

Before heading back Friday, Wehr will have a chance to check out the science festival being held through Sunday at the convention center, which will include more than 1,000 exhibitors and is expected to draw thousands of attendees — including actor Wil Wheaton from “The Big Bang Theory” and the band They Might Be Giants.