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Delano Middle School student has dreams of being an astronaut

May 12, 2008

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Young girls often dream about what they want to be when they grow up, and Stephanie Smith of Loretto is no different.

“Since kindergarten, Stephanie has said she wants to be a doctor, artist, or an astronaut,” said her father, James Smith. “I’ve always told her she can be all three if that’s what she wants. If she sets her mind to it, she can do anything.”

After attending The International School of Minnesota in Eden Prairie, Stephanie transferred to Delano Middle School in sixth grade.

With the support and encouragement of her father and teachers, Stephanie participated in a regional science fair, and then the state science fair.

For her science class rock project, she asked if she could use a Smithsonian Institute crystal growing kit she received for Christmas.

The kit included four different solutions for growing synthetic diamonds, rubies, quartz, and emeralds.

The crystals took about a month to grow and when she brought her project to school she was approached about entering the regional science fair.

“I was a little nervous about it,” Stephanie admitted. “I had only done school science fairs, but I thought I’d give it a try.”

Her high intelligence and love of science are clear when she tells you about her crystal project.

The main purpose was to test synthetic crystals to see if they were consistent with natural grown crystals.

Stephanie made many comparisons including density, volume, and mass. She will eagerly tell you about her project and is proud of her work.

“When I started the crystal project, I never intended to go to the science fair,” Stephanie said. “My dad said, ‘look what you can do when you weren’t even trying.’”

The regional science fair was at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and her project scored high enough to make it to the state science fair.

She also received an award from the Association of Women Geo Scientists, the only award of its kind given at the event.

Once at the state science fair in St. Paul, Stephanie was presented with the Young Scientist Challenge Award. According to Smith, only 15 out of the 1,000 projects received this honor.

“My favorite part of going to regional and state,” she said with a smile. “The judges were all so knowledgeable, nice, and pleasant.”

Stephanie plans to do another project next year, and looks forward to moving up to the high school, where she can take advanced science classes.

“She did well this year,” James Smith said. “It was a learning process, and I know she will take it further this year. Sometimes we have to hold her down a bit because she gets so enthusiastic and takes on a lot.”

Just as Stephanie likes to talk about her favorite subject, she also enjoys talking about one of her favorite teachers – Alan Briesemeister.

She likes how he is very spontaneous, and makes students think and figure things out themselves.

The hands-on activities he provides students is something Smith appreciates, and Stephanie admits she will miss him next year when he goes to teach in Africa.

Briesemeister thinks highly of her, as well.

“Stephanie is a very talented eighth grade student,” Briesemeister said. “She excels in applying herself to the empirical part of science, the area of measurement and analysis of data.”

In regard to the judges at the regional and state science fairs, Briesemeister said they were impressed with her ability to verbalize her work.

Along with her love of science comes her fascination with the moon, the stars, and beyond.

“I really want to be an astronaut.” she beamed. “I want to do something beyond the earth.”