Area student headed to internationals

Scranton sophomore Abbigale Steeke is head to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.

Abbigale Steeke stands next to hear information board at the state science fair in Grand Forks. She’ll bring the board with her to the international competition. (Courtesy Photo)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor

On May 12, Steeke will be the first representative heading to the international competition from Scranton since 1986.

Steeke scored in the top two in the region, advancing to internationals for her work with sheep breeding.

The Scranton sophomore placed seeders in sheep and experimented with different amounts of progesterone gonadotropin 600 (PG600)—a medicine used to increase the number of eggs produced in the ovaries before breeding, with the hope of yielding more lambs.

Vet standard is to give the seeders 5 CCs, and the theory is that the more you give, the more lambs it will yield. But Steeke has discovered that may not be true.

She gave some of her seeders 2.5 CCs, and some received 5 CCs. And her results showed the smaller CCs produced more twins and triplets.

This type of information could lead to savings for producers. The 2.5 CC solution is $7.50 cheaper than 5 CCs, so in the long run, the dollars will add up.

From the production side, since she got more lambs, and there wasn’t as much cost at the beginning, this process could become much more efficient.

This experiment even amazed her director, Scranton science teacher Gretchen Flatz.

“It kind of comes to a point for a teacher where they should get above your heads, because that’s the quality of projects that are there, they are very intense,” Flatz said. “What I can do is read and see the scientific process.”

Flatz said that even though she may not follow her students’ experiments with complete expertise, she has the tools to show them how to present their information, and what holes in presentations need to be filled. Basically Flatz has the knowledge and experience to give her students a block format of how to present information, and the student can extrapolate that into their specific experiment.

Steeke and her family work extensively with sheep as ranchers, and she decided to study this subject as a part of her science fair project because of the lack of information she could find on the small livestock.

“I did this because there’s not a lot of information [on] sheep with PG600,” she said. “There’s a lot of things done on cows, but nothing on sheep.”

Flatz said that is what makes her project unique, is the fact that it is applicable is her personal life.

The judging will be similar to the state competition. Steeke will have her diorama and a booth with a time scheduled for the judges to meet with her. Upon their arrival they will be quizzing her on the complete experiment, from top to bottom.

Steeke will have to be more in-depth as apart of her presentation, in part because she wasn’t able to display some photography she had from her process.

Flatz said the rules tighten up significantly at the international level. For instance, you don’t see as many animal experiments because if it looks as though the animal was under undue stress, the competitor will be disqualified. Flatz said PETA even sends a presence to these competitions.

Flatz and Steeke were warned about what to expect at the international level, which is why they have removed some pictures from her display. Without some of her photos though, Steeke will have to be very descriptive.

“You just have to described, in depth, a lot more,” Steeke said.

Other items not allowed would be anything considered dangerous; Flatz even said water can’t be with you at your booth because it’s considered a chemical.

Flatz praised her student for her work ethic, saying that she has put quit a bit of her own time into this—Steeke started in mid-August and has been working on it ever since.

“Abby has put a lot of time into this,” Flatz said. “Abby has taken her time, her personal time to make this happen.”

She also said that sometimes the time commitment is necessary, because she is going to be going up against students that are studying advanced subjects like genetics and cancer research.

Steeke couldn’t account for how many hours she’s spent on this, but said it dates all the way back to mid-August.

Though only a sophomore, when asked about looking into this research as a potential career path, she jokingly said she hadn’t thought about it.

In the near future though Steeke said she may use this experiment again, because she can alter many facets of it, like breeding at different points in the year, or simply use more sheep next time to get a broader point of perspective.