Student’s ‘random’ project pays off

Published 9:55 am Monday, June 8, 2009

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP — Her science fair project was called “The Illusion of Randomness” – can humans really pick random numbers? But the end result of her project was no illusion: Rock Hill High School student Tayler Lewis has been offered a $60,000 college scholarship because of it.

Lewis, 17, earned superior ratings at the local and state level with her project and advanced to the state Science Day at Ohio State University this spring.

Lewis is no stranger to science achievement. Her project last year earned her a trip to the state competition. Both of her projects have earned a superior rating at the state level.

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Each year a team of judges from the College of Wooster attend the science event and offer up to four scholarships to extraordinary students. Dr. Sarah Schmidtke is assistant professor of chemistry at the College of Wooster and was one of the four people from the college who judged Lewis’ project. Schmidtke said the judges were looking for students who have a firm knowledge of the basics of math and science and are not just reciting something they memorized. She said they also looked for students who seem genuinely enthusiastic about the work. Lewis fit the bill perfectly.

“We were quite surprised that she really understood the statistics she was presenting,” Schmidtke said. “She actually understood the mathematics behind what she was doing. I felt like it was an independently driven project.”

Lewis said she was stunned by the offer.

“I was in shock for a minute,” she said. “It was like, wow!”

Lewis may have been surprised but her teachers at Rock Hill are not. Heather Hardy was Lewis’ freshman science teacher. She said in an email to The Tribune that Lewis is an outstanding student.

“Tayler is a very goal oriented, self motivated young lady. She excels in all of her classes,” Hardy said.

Lewis hopes to pursue a career in engineering, perhaps biomedical engineering. She has not decided where she will attend college and she has a year to think about: she will be a senior this year. And she has choices: she has also been offered a scholarship from Heidelberg University in Findlay.

Her advice to younger students?

“Pick something you like and really work at it. Don’t wait until the week before it’s due,” she said.