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The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Zoe Diederich enters the leaderboard at Florida state science fair

Zoe Diederich working on her project. Photo courtesy of Zoe Diederich.

This year’s Florida Science and Engineering Fair– a yearly state-sponsored event dedicated entirely to STEM students–started on March 28th, and ran until the first day of April. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the fair had to be hosted virtually, but this did not keep the hundreds of students from across the state from entering the competition, which held over a million dollars in awards.

One of these students, Zoe Diederich, not only qualified for the fair but also ranked in second place in the state, along with two other students. The pandemic, however, brought many hardships. Dr. Gina Sese, who acted as a mentor for Zoe during her project, spoke on this.

“[t]he fact that Zoe was able to properly [analyze two variables simultaneously], while being restricted from her testing site due to COVID restrictions, is a testament to her understand of not only scientific investigations, but also as an avid researcher, looking for the scientific truth when barriers are put in her way,” she said.

Zoe’s project, titled, “An Efficient and Cost-Effective System for Cooling Nuclear Power Plants,” was, as the name suggests, focused on making progress toward a more frequent use of nuclear power, which is considered by many to be a much more environmentally-safe source of energy.

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“Her work focuses on the side effects of the use of a nuclear power plant. She’s examining salinity rates and temperature changes within the canals associated with nuclear power plants. If she can examine her results and develop an argument and solution for the use of nuclear power plants versus the fossil fuels, she could sway the use of one versus the other,” Dr. Sese said.

Zoe’s project has also garnered attention outside of the fair, and she has created a patent placeholder which allows her to prove ownership of her solution. 

Zoe started her project in 7th grade, where it was about the size of a shoe box. Over five  years, she continued to improve (and expand) her project, where it is now about the size of a dresser, composed of multiple cooling components.

Diederich's project. Photo courtesy Zoe Diederich.
Diederich’s project. Photo courtesy Zoe Diederich.

“I focused on a different variable each year. One year I focused on temperature, one year I focused on salinity, and this year was a summary of everything and I really tried to perfect it,” Zoe said.

Zoe even spoke to nuclear engineers as she continued developing her project.

“I have also spoken to FPL, which is the company that we get our electricity from. […] They’re in charge of the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, which is the power plant here in Homestead,” she added.

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