District Five students win top awards at International Science Fair

Two Lexington-Richland School District Five students received top awards at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF). A program of the Society for Science for over 70 years, Regeneron ISEF is the world’s largest global science competition for high schoolers.

Carlynn Rychener (Chapin High) and Andy Yang (Dutch Fork High) competed at the world’s largest global high school competition in Dallas, Texas, on May 13-19. These youth were chosen based on their outstanding research projects at the South Carolina Regional II Science & Engineering Fair.

Rychener is a senior at Chapin High. She placed 3rd at ISEF in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Category with her project on the creation of microplastics in the environment due to abiotic and environmental factors.

“My project is about the degradation of polyethylene foam water mats into microplastics due to environmental factors such as UV exposure, heat, and mechanical abrasion,” Rychener said. “After conducting an experiment, I discovered that UV exposure from the sun and mechanical abrasion created the most microplastics from plastic water mats (lilly pads as some may call them). This conclusion has negative implications for the Lake Murray community because the lake is a water source for many in the area. Due to the popularity of these water mats and material in general, microplastics are polluting our water sources and when consumed, they have been found to have negative impacts on human and animal health.”

After high school, Rychener is attending the University of South Carolina Honors College as a Carolina Scholar.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF),” Rychener said. “It was an incredible experience where I was able to make friends from all over the world and share my passion with others.”

Yang is a junior in the STEM Program at Dutch Fork High. He placed 4th in the Robotics and Intellectual Machines Category. Yang is interested in innovation with machine learning, specifically developing algorithms to enhance objection recognition for fuzzy natured images.

“Our teachers encourage us to strive for curiosity and Mr. Barry Lindler has helped to inspire a passion in computer science,” Yang said. “I just wanted to delve more deeply into code and coding languages. Our teachers encourage us to go past the content and encourage us to look for things you can apply to real life and search for innovation.”

Yang plans to continue working on his project and hopes to make it back to the ISEF next year in Los Angeles, California.

“We are so very proud of Andy and what he is already accomplishing,” Dutch Fork High teacher Barry Lindler said. “He truly leads by example – and is such a great role model, not only in our STEM Honors program, but to Dutch Fork High and the district as well. He truly wants to make a difference for others – and lives our motto of “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” I cannot wait to see where his life journey takes him!”

In total, awards valued at nearly $9 million were awarded to the 2023 finalists, who were evaluated based on their projects’ creativity, innovation and level of scientific inquiry. The competition featured over 1,600 young scientists representing 49 states and 64 countries, regions and territories across the world.