Two North Salem High School students competed in the Westchester-Rockland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

Senior Isabella Piacentino and junior Kristen Reiss, both students in Paul Rubeo’s Science Research Program, presented their extensive scientific research in the sub-regional science competition.

Both submitted research papers to a panel of teachers and scientists to qualify and were selected to present in the symposium.
According to Rubeo, 600 papers were submitted for review and participating in the event itself was impressive.

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“They both did an excellent job,” Rubeo said. “They didn’t place but they did a really, really excellent job of presenting and I think they should be really proud of the work they did.”

Piacentino presented her research in which she compared the accuracy and precision of the Lynxmotion AL5D Robotic Arm with human participants.

For the past two years, Piacentino has been interning with a surgeon who conducts robotic surgery at Westchester Medical Center. 

“She was able to suture silicone chips with it and she got an opportunity to play around with the actual robotic surgery console, which she thought was really cool,” Rubeo said.

“She wanted to do something related to that but she couldn’t do surgery so she settled on working with a robotic arm. She found a way to do something that was still doable and related to something she was interested in but wasn’t exactly the same thing, which I thought was pretty creative on her part.”

For the past two years, Piacentino built a robotic arm and then compared the arm’s ability to move versus a human arm. She then took that research to modify the arm, making it more proficient and accurate.

Reiss will be interning at the Mianus River Gorge in Bedford for her second year this summer. 

She has been studying the invasive species Japanese stiltgrass to determine whether environmental factors affect the growth of the plant.

“The idea is that she wants to find some sort of variable that she can influence that would allow for the killing of the stiltgrass without the use of chemical treatment,” Rubeo said.

She looked at soil moisture, canopy coverage and amounts of light to measure the growth of the plant.

“Right now they have to chemically burn the weed,” Rubeo said. “Mechanically, it can’t be removed because it’s so resilient.”

Rubeo said that Reiss is planning to continue her internship with the Mianus River Gorge, a program with a 50 percent acceptance rate, this summer and continue to present her research in her senior year.