What do you get when you mix two parts cornstarch and one part water, then put the results into a motorcycle helmet?

If you are high school students Jake Medrano, Mario Robles and Braulio Reyes from the John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, you get a potentially life-saving application of Oobleck.

Oobleck, a fluid that can’t be described by just one state of matter, is rock hard when met with a sudden force such as a punch or a stab, but it stays in a liquid state when you dip your fingers in slowly. Medrano, Robles and Reyes, who were the first high school students to showcase their work during St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Symposium and Creative Activities Exhibition, demonstrated this very phenomenon. The three teammates were each recipients of a $30,000 scholarship to St. Mary’s University for being grand prize-winners of the John Jay Science and Engineering Academy’s science fair. St. Mary’s offered a total of $240,000 to eight promising students at the Academy.

Symposium judges also met St. Mary’s undergraduates at the 11th annual symposium who built iPhone apps, analyzed Wii Fit as a physical therapy tool and weighed the benefits of a campus recycling program.

Open to undergraduate and graduate students from all five schools, the symposium invites them to show off advanced research that covers a diversity of subjects and specialties. This year, more than 100 groups presented their research at the symposium.

One electrical engineering student, Corey Harbert, combined his lifelong loves – music and engineering – into his computer-controlled system that controls audio levels according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) recommendations.

Being a musician himself, Harbert knows that ear strain and even eardrum damage can occur when a person is exposed to high volumes for a long period of time. His project automatically monitors and attenuates an audio signal if it exceeds a specified threshold, protecting the person’s ears throughout a daylong recording session and potentially preserving their hearing later in life.

Students at St. Mary’s have ample opportunity to gain research experience and even earn fellowships along the way.

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