Kristen Clayton is a 15-year-old budding scientist at Viera High School in Brevard County. Her inspiration for research comes from her daily drive to school, where she sees first-hand the adverse effects of algae spilling out the parameters of the narrow canals that surround her. These images drove her to create an environmentally friendly solution to excessive algae growth. She discovered the usage of Lemna minor, a rapidly growing aquatic plant, in the removal of nitrogen and phosphate from the water to be used as ethanol fuel.

Her research project determines the ideal amount of nutrients needed for Lemna minor to both relieve the waterways as well as produce an efficient future fuel source. In the future, she hopes to further the study by testing Lemna minor’s ability to transfer its stored energy to an ethanol/gasoline run device. When she’s not in her lab coat Kristen finds joy in ballet dancing, reading, sketching, painting, volunteering and exploring the wonders of nature.

This weekend, Kristen and four other finalists from area high schools will compete for the coveted “Ying Prize” during the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition at the Orlando Science Center. The Grand Prize winner receives a $5000 scholarship and an award of $1000 for the student’s science teacher or mentor and another $1,000 for the winner’s school.  To compete in the Ying competition, each entrant must perform a research project that has the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity.

On Friday, April 29, Kristen and her fellow finalists will tour the Minute Maid Laboratories in Apopka and then see the UCF Nanotechnology Department. On Saturday, April 30, they will defend their research before the judges’ panel at the Orlando Science Center and then get a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility. On Sunday, May 1, the event will culminate in an announcement of the Grand Prize winners on Sunday at an awards luncheon at Fulton’s Crab House at Downtown Disney.

Kristen Clayton


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