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Washington Student Selected for International Science Forum
Odessa 11th grader is using chemistry to water crops in her dry-land farming community

OLYMPIA — May 4, 2011 — Kira Powell, an 11th grade chemistry student at Odessa High School in Odessa, has qualified to attend the London International Youth Science Forum. Powell earned her spot by taking first place in Environmental Science at the National Science and Humanities Symposium, held last weekend in San Diego.

Powell will travel to London in July and participate in a two-week residential event in which students present research, tour state-of-the-art scientific facilities and attend lecture demonstrations presented by the world’s top scientists. Powell is the first student from Washington to qualify for the forum.

“Kira’s innovative thinking and creativity has not only won her a spot in London, but has created new opportunities for farmers in her community and across the world,” State Superintendent Dorn said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Powell grew up in Odessa, a rural farming community about 90 miles west of Spokane that receives little rainfall. Her project uses sodium polyacrylate, a non-toxic polymer commonly found in baby diapers, to absorb moisture and create reservoirs of water around newly planted seeds. The seeds then access the water as they grow, allowing farmers to make the most of both rainfall and irrigation. Powell worked with local farmers to conduct her project from seed to harvest.

“What separates Kira from the crowd is her persistence,” said Jeff Wehr, Odessa High’s science teacher who served as Kira’s advisor on her project. “She has what I call the astronaut quality: under stress or when all seems lost, Kira rolls up her sleeves and says, ‘Let’s make this happen.’

“There has been a lot of criticism out there about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) scores and programs, but we need to remember that we have incredible students like Kira right here in Washington who are excelling at the international level.”

Powell is also a Washington Aerospace Scholar and the defending state girls 1B/2B golf champion. In addition to attending the London forum, she will compete against students from more than 60 countries at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles on May 8-13.


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015

Assessment Communications Manager
Chris Barron
(360) 725-6032


   Updated 6/12/2015

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