Originally published Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at 10:46a.m.

PHOENIX — Three eighth-graders from Tuba City Junior High School joined more than 1,000 students from across the state of Arizona to compete in the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair where 743 projects were judged April 4-5 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The Tuba City students included Jacelyn Tallsalt, Mikyla Johnson and Maric Bilagody.

Tallsalt was the only student to place in the science fair, she won third place in the environmental science category with her entry, “Wood + Coal = CO2.”

Johnson and Bilagody did not place, but Johnson received the 2019 Broadcom Masters International Delegate Award in the junior division along with Tallsalt. Both Tallsalt and Johnson earned an all-expense paid trip to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 for one week at Arizona State University in May, where senior division students will compete.

Johnson’s entry was titled “MED-Sage” and was in the biology category and Bilagody’s entry was titled “Shooting Accuracy vs. Fatigue” in the physical science category.

Earlier this year, the students’ science projects made their debut at their school’s local science fair competition, where they won and advanced to the Western Navajo Agency science fair, where they also won. They eventually presented and placed first at the 2019 Navajo Nation Science Fair competition in February, which allowed them to advance to the state competition. On their journey, the same science fair projects were presented and judged at each competition.

The highly competitive two-day event, managed by the Arizona Science Center, brings together the first-place winners from regional science fairs from across the state to compete for prizes. Prizes include scholarships, cash, summer internships, scientific field trips and equipment grants.

The mission of the science fair is to support and provide guidance to students and teachers throughout Arizona to ensure the continued availability and vitality of this statewide celebration of scientific inquiry for the citizens of Arizona.

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Jacelyn Tallsalt, an eighth-grader at Tuba City Junior High, won third place in the environmental science category with her entry “Wood + Coal = CO2” at the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair April 4-5 in Phoenix. She was also the recipient of the 2019 Broadcom Masters International Delegate Award with Mikyla Johnson. (Photo/Sharlimar Navaho)

Sharlimar Navaho, mother of Jaycelyn Tallsalt, said she was excited and happy for her daughter.

“Jayce has earned an appearance [at the state science fair] during her fifth grade, seventh grade and now eighth grade year by placing first at the Navajo Nation Science Fair — engineering in 2016, engineering in 2018 and environmental science [in] 2019,” she said.

“I am very proud of my daughter’s third place win in the [state’s science fair] within the environmental science category,” she said. “Her project analyzed the CO2 and O2 levels present when burning cedar wood, cedar wood with coal, pine wood and pine wood with coal.”

Navaho said she is also thankful the Navajo Nation Fire Department in Tuba City allowed Jaycelyn to use their CO2 reader. As a result of Jaycelyn’s interest and research findings, a video was made to be used for educational purposes for fire departments across the Navajo Nation for their fire certification courses. Jaycelyn will also share her research with research scientists at Northern Arizona University.

Navaho said as her parent, she thanks Jaycelyn’s science teacher Vivian Abcede-Roberts for her hard work planning the Tuba City Junior High School science fair and accompanying the science fair students to the various science fair competitions.

“As a parent, I really believe that successful students stem from adults who believe in them and I am thankful Jaycelyn is surrounded by excellent teachers at Tuba City Junior High School,” she said. “Thank you Tuba City Junior High School family for your support and thank you to my family members for your continuous encouragement. It truly takes a village to mold our future leaders.”

Dr. Melissa Bilagody, principal at Tuba City Junior High School, commended the students on their success.

“Our students who competed at the state level were well prepared and well-rehearsed. Their science fair projects were a display of inquiry in the highest form,” she said. “I congratulate them and their families. I also want to acknowledge their science teacher, Ms. Abcede, for her support and encouragement to our exceptional students.”

Organizers of the state science fair also congratulated participants with a post on their social media page, “Congratulations to every student who competed in 2019 AzSEF, you are truly Arizona’s brightest young minds and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you all!”

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