Harvey School student Amir Gidden enjoyed the last few days of spring break, but not because he was basking at a beach somewhere sunny and warm. The sophomore answered the call to interrupt his break and participate as one of the poster presenters for Iona College in the New York State Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP) 19th Annual Student Conference, March 24-26 in Albany.
When Amir was told during his spring break that two scheduled presenters dropped out of the conference, he volunteered to make his presentation on "Water Desalination by Reverse Osmosis & Ion Exchange Method." Amir and a partner had worked on the project together under the guidance of STEP researcher, Dr. Nidal Pak. After presenting their research twice before the judges and once to the general assembly, Amir and his project partner won second place in this statewide competition involving students in the 11th and 12th grades.
Amir’s mother, Michelle Blackwell, was overjoyed at her son’s success and proud of his accomplishment. “Amir decided to cut his spring break short and pursue something he is passionate about. In the eleventh hour he represented Iona College and secured second place.”
STEP at Iona is an academic enrichment program designed for middle school and high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in math, science, technology, health-related fields and licensed professions. Amir has participated in the program since seventh grade, taking courses in the summer and attending Saturday workshops during the academic year.
His years in STEP have made Amir proficient in creating websites and producing poster board and PowerPoint presentations, but it is his love of science and working in the labs that has caused Amir to stay in STEP at Iona since 2012. His mother recalls that Amir found his calling in engineering early in his childhood. “When Amir was younger he would spend hours building anything he dreamed with Legos. He would sit in the middle of the living room with a million Lego pieces and create anything. He preferred working with Legos than watching cartoons.”
Amir’s mother said that when Iona’s STEP Director Leonie Gordon offered Amir the opportunity to work with water systems, “he jumped at the chance.” Amir and his partner, Jhavere Erskine, a junior from the Bronx High School of Writing and Communications Arts, finished second among the participants in the “Engineering Research” category. The weekend event involved 100 high school participants from across the state.
Photos: Upper left; Amir Gidden (left) and his project partner Jhavere Erskine stand before their poster presentation. far right; Jhavere and Amir hold their second-place trophy awarded to the pair in the statewide STEP competition, March 25. in Albany.