Vaughn Hughes - Minnetonka High School

Vaughn Hughes, a Minnetonka High School student, won first place in the North Central Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

EXCELSIOR — Two siblings who go to Minnetonka Public Schools placed in the top three at the North Central Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), the Minnesota Academy of Science said in a news release.

Minnetonka High School's Vaughn Hughes of Excelsior won first place, including $2,000, in the annual STEM research paper competition. His topic, “Using Environmental Enhancements to Increase Vitamin-C Production in Spinacia oleracea in Varied Agricultural Environments,” involved him experimenting with a method for increasing the Vitamin C levels in food grown vertically indoors without soil or sunlight, a news release says.

Meanwhile, Quentin Hughes won third place, including $1,000, for his topic, “An Active Role for Machine Learning in the Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation.”

They were among 80 students who were scheduled to compete in person on March 26, but due to COVID-19, students were asked to upload audio files and slide presentations along with their research papers by March 20.

A total of 68 students ended up presenting 54 research projects virtually, which were reviewed and judged by STEM professionals.

The JSHS winners and finalists, as well as the winners of the State Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF), were announced together on April 1.

For the SSEF, qualifying students were selected to compete virtually from more than 2,500 students in grades 6-12 who competed in regional fairs in February. More than 400 students were asked to upload videos of themselves discussing their research.

Vaughn won silver in the SSEF for his topic. He also won the Land O’ Lakes Award For Food Innovation-High School ($500), the Minnesota State Horticultural Society’s Excellence in Horticultural Research-High School and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Science Champion Award.

Quentin Hughes won a gold award for his topic, as well as the Beckman Coulter Awards-Second Place High School ($200), SPIE’s Optics and Photonics Award-First Place High School ($250) and Wolfram Research’s Mathematic Software Award.

Other area students were also recognized for their SSEF projects. Among them:

  • 3M recognized the top three most innovative middle and high school projects, including awarding the first-place prize and $500 to Minnetonka High School student Sterre Hoogendoorn for the project, “Creating an algorithm to assist saber referees using biomechanical data.”
  • Ecolab awarded the $700 Food Safety Award to Minnetonka High School student Ahlaam Abdulwali for the project, “The Effect of Artificial Food Colors on the Release of Neurotransmitters within Model Organisms.”

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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