Young Scientists use research to tackle Wilmington problems

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Since the pandemic struck, all eyes have been on scientists, whether it’s been forming strategies to drop COVID-19 transmission rates or developing lifesaving vaccines.

However, the next generation of researchers is already doing groundbreaking work of its own.

Naomy Alvarado hasn’t even started 6th grade yet, but this summer she’s taken an in-depth look at COVID-19 reproduction and vaccination rates.

She’s tracked the numbers, built graphs and analyzed trends about a disease that’s impacting us all and hitting the LatinX community especially hard.

“I picked this topic because I wanted to see how I could help my community and how to decrease the number of COVID cases,” said Naomy.

She’s preparing to present her findings to adults, and city leaders at the Young Scientist Academy’s upcoming Youth Cause Summit. The Young Scientist Academy (YSA) is a nonprofit that takes kids from diverse backgrounds and helps them learn how to think critically and use science to tackle real world problems head on.

Organizers say they hope to encourage kids to ask questions about the world around them.

“There’s a line where they stop regurgitating what they hear from textbooks and teachers and they’re thinking critically enough to form their own hypotheses,” said program director Makayla Molina.

Take Mikila Hiott and Jayla Barnhill’s project — using a thermal camera to investigate why urban areas are hotter than outlying regions.

”My hypothesis is that I think the temperature is increasing because green space is decreasing so we want to plant more trees,” said Mikila.

These projects hit home for these kids because many of them are living the experiment, many are from urban heat islands. One student studying the impact of mold on housing materials is living in a motel still after their home flooded in Hurricane Florence and became infested with mold.

Or, take Camilla Ayivi and Amari Green’s project — analyzing water samples from parks in their neighborhood.

“We’ve tested them — and not really looking that good because a lot of trash is in there, a lot of pollution,” said Amari.

These kids have learned a lot of data but the number one lesson YSA hopes they take away is that anyone can be a scientist.

“Girls in the LatinX community think they can’t do things because they’re a girl, and LatinX,” said 11-year-old Naomy Alvarado. “You can be anything you want to be, [it] doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy, how old you are, or what race you are.”

The Youth Cause Initiative Summit will be held August 13 and 14 and is open to the public.

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