River Grace noticed something strange about radiated tortoises and how they reacted to rain.
Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- West Shore Jr./Sr. High School student River Grace won the top
$25,000 prize in the Broadcom MASTERS national science competition this
The 14-year-old West Melbourne
resident was honored with the Samueli Foundation Prize for overall
excellence in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as
the STEM fields. River also will have a newly discovered asteroid named
"This is an unbelievable thrill, and I thank you all for your support," he wrote in an email.
was one of 30 finalists in the national competition, which concluded
Tuesday. The prestigious science competition for middle school students -
MASTERS refers to Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for
Rising Stars, is designed to recognize and engage young researchers.
During the weeklong competition, students also formed six teams to compete in "challenges." Grace's team won that award.
project is "Rain Dance of the Radiata: Behavior of the Endangered
Radiated Tortoise and Related Species." It was done under the direction
of teacher Mary Anderson.
researching, River realized that not much is known about the species
only found in southern Madagascar. Scientists estimate it could be
extinct in the next 20 years.
developed a better understanding of the species while completing his
project at Florida Tech, where his father, Michael, is a professor, and
at the Brevard Zoo.
some experiments, River simulated rain by using a water sprinkler and
watching to see if males reacted differently than females, or if
hatchlings reacted differently than adults. He found that gender did not
play a role, but age did, as some tortoises "danced" in the rain.
He tested six other species of tortoises. They did not behave the same way in the rain.
River believes the dance may be a cleaning routine, which he wants to study further.