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Scott Second in National Science Fair

Just 14 1/2, Jimmy Scott III definitely has bragging rights. He's an eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School and a freshman at Centreville High simultaneously.

And competing against 18 others in his category, he recently took second place in the National Native American Science and Engineering Fair at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M.

Some 427 projects were entered in the whole science fair, and Scott was the only contender from Virginia. He won a medal and a $50 savings bond and said he was surprised that he did so well because the level of judging was so difficult.

"The judges really knew their subjects," he said. "I was very proud and happy."

The son of Judy and Jimmy Scott II of Centreville's Manorgate community, Jimmy III takes Algebra I, Civics, English, P.E. and French I at Liberty and a senior computer course plus freshman biology at Centreville.

"I get to see six different grade levels in a day," he said. "I definitely prefer high school because of the maturity level. My idea of fun is learning."

For a career, Scott is interested in the optical physics field of nanoscience — which is the study of things hundreds of nanos in size or smaller (a nano is one billionth of a meter). And optical physics relates to cameras, lights, batteries, etc.

"His project was called 'The Three Spirits' because we're a Native American family — part of the Chickasaw Nation," said his proud dad. "His grandmother, Wanda Scott Blackwood, is chairman of the tribe in Oklahoma."

Scott's entry used flexible, silver cells — one side shiny and the other side, a photo cell. He placed three photovoltaic cells (a form of solar cell) onto a level of a terraced area. Below them, he placed corn seeds.

One cell was at 180 degrees (a straight line), one was at 90 degrees and one was bent into a semicircle. "Instead of placing my photovoltaic cells in the normal direction where they'd collect energy, I placed them backwards so the side that looks like a mirror faced the corn seeds," he explained.

Scott wanted to see if the extra radiant energy from a light source would affect the height of the plants. "This experiment has never been recorded as being done before," he said. "I measured [the plants] for 14 days after they started to grow."

Because the 90-degree and semicircular cells were not perfect parabolas, he said, their focal points were spread out. The 180-degree cell affected the most plants and, therefore, yielded the most promising results in plant height.

Scott plans to continue his project next year. "The important thing about [it] is that, in the morning when the sun is least intense is when I was trying to enhance the plants," he said. "I wanted to give them a little more growing time."