McCandless sixth-grader earns science accolades, a family tradition
Lyta Nicoll is following in her family's footsteps.
As the daughter of a scientist and an engineer, Lyta was excited to become eligible to participate in the annual Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair, held last month, in the youngest age category.
Lyta, a sixth-grader at Montessori Centre Academy in Shaler Township, spent several months researching and testing the electromagnetic field waves emitted from multiple cell phones at various distances and was rewarded for her efforts with several awards, including second place in the junior physical science category.
“After the first couple of awards (are announced), you see the audience start to hold their breath to see who got first, second and third,” said Lyta, 11, of McCandless. “I was nervous after third place was announced … I was certainly not expecting to get second place at all.”
Lyta also received sponsor awards from the Allegheny County Health Department and the American Industrial Hygiene Association, an honorable mention by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. and an affiliate award from the Ricoh Americas Corp.
By placing second, Lyta earned the opportunity to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS, an online national science fair for students in the sixth to eighth grades.
“I was very proud of her,” said Amy McIvor, Lyta's science teacher. “She worked very hard and diligently on her research and experiment. She takes a lot of pride in her work and (puts in) a lot of effort.”
While Lyta's family members are not frequent cellphone users, she noticed increased cellphone usage in the general public, which prompted her research and discovery of the harmful effects of electromagnetic field, or EMF, waves emitted by cell phones.
“I didn't even know EMFs existed until doing the research for this project so it was a real learning experience,” Lyta said.
She used an EMF meter to test 11 cellphones of friends, family members and teachers for her research. While Lyta found differences in the cellphones tested, she couldn't conclude from her data if one phone model was better or worse.
Lyta also received coaching from her older sister, Serena, a freshman at North Allegheny Intermediate High School, who has placed in each of the four years of competing in the regional science fair, and her parents who helped her prepare answers to the judges' questions.
“We've always enjoyed doing it as a family project,” said Gayle Nicoll, Lyta's mother and a chemist. “We shoot to make this an educational experience so they get something out of it. We practice so they do well, but the main goal is to learn and enjoy the experience.”
Now Lyta is looking at ways to expand her experiment for next year's science fair.
“I'm probably going to continue with this project,” said Lyta, giving examples of variations to the experiment. “There are a lot of expansion projects with it.”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.