Alisha Wald, a sixth-grader at Wood-Gormley Elementary in Santa Fe, explains how she added dishwashing soap to water to study surface tension changes.
Courtesy photo

Prompted by challenges posed by wildfires, water shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic, future scientists, engineers, and inventors showcased their innovative ideas and solutions at a statewide competition hosted by New Mexico Tech. The 71st annual New Mexico State Science and Engineering Fair 2023 (NMSEF) was conducted April 14 and 15, at the university in Socorro, welcoming middle and high school students from across New Mexico. The competition featured students’ posters on topics ranging from nutrition to water quality.

Brian Patterson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, said he enjoys judging the competition every year for the opportunity to learn what questions are on the minds of young scientists and how they approach their research.

“It’s very diverse in all the different projects they look at,” he said. “The fun thing is talking to the kids about how they did their experiments.”

Mario Vargas, a sophomore at Taos Academy Charter School, tested fire retardants’ effects on the environment, including invertebrates such as earthworms. His science experiment measured the earthworms’ activity and weight.

“It was a big thing,” he said of the aftermath of the spring 2022 wildfires in northern New Mexico.

Ryan Tortalita, a 10th-grader at Grants High School, remembers how difficult it was to find cleaning products at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His experiment tested a homemade solution against Clorox Wipes and Lysol spray.

“It was hard to find cleaners in 2020,” to stop the spread of germs, he said.

Aditi Ganti, an eighth-grader at AIMS Middle School in Albuquerque, examined the process of desalination of seawater as a way to produce usable water in the future. Her experience has had an impact on career deliberations.

“I like a wide range of subjects, especially math,” she said, adding that her future most likely will involve a subject in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field.

Alisha Wald, a sixth-grader at Wood Gormley Elementary in Santa Fe, toured the Mineral Museum at the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources during the science fair. She’s considering medicine, science, and engineering.

“I have lots of choices,” she said.

NMSEF results are online at:

Katie Bauer, NMT Communications