Krisalyn Higerd is a fifteen-year-old rising junior and the oldest in a family of eight children who lives in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where her father has been stationed as a marine for the past four years. Over the years, she has lived in Virginia, California, and North Carolina. An early reader, beginning at age two, Krisalyn has earned her education as a homeschool student taught by her mother and remains so today. In addition to her interest in science, she reads a lot, attends church and bible studies regularly, volunteers in her church nursery, and loves to swim.
In her 7th grade year, Krisalyn attended a science class taught by Betty Bigney, a teacher who was once an applicant to go on the Challenger. That year, there was also a homeschool science fair, which was Krisalyn’s first experience at a science and engineering fair. Reflecting on that experience, she felt unsatisfied with her project, noting that it had too many variables and not nearly enough research. However, Krisalyn enjoyed the competition and returned the following year, winning first place at the local homeschool fair level. Surprisingly, she would never have continued doing science fairs after that year, owing to the immense amount of stress that the preparations for the science fairs cause. However, after Betty Bigney approached Krisalyn’s mother and told her that she needed to take Krisalyn and her younger sister Kinley to regionals, where they were both to win, Krisalyn’s excitement to participate in the science fair grew.
Krisalyn feels that competing in science and engineering fairs has made her enjoy science more. Prior to the fair experience, she recalls not caring for science much. Furthermore, she feels that her participation has impacted other homeschool students and encouraged them to compete. She has noticed more homeschool students enrolling in competition and feels that seeing her compete and win as a homeschool student is providing a model, showing others that it is possible to compete and win as a homeschooler.
When reflecting on the fair experience, she mentions the judging being a bit stressful. She thinks that she blocks out the stressful moments, not remembering specific questions well. However, she does remember the before and after experiences, believing that the other students’ projects inspire her and continue to push her thinking. This push, along with the thrill of a chance at winning, drives her to seek to do better each year.As Krisalyn has competed across multiple years, she has been able to experience both face-to-face and virtual competitions. She appreciates getting to go to the fair events in person, especially the State level fair, where she has made a friend who she connects with periodically throughout the year.
She has explored many different projects across the years:2018, 7th grade project: Cheap Carpet Cleaners
This project tested different solutions (homemade) to clean up grape juice on carpet. She learned that there were too many variables and not enough trials in her research design. Krisalyn used this information in order to create a better project for 8th grade.2019, 8th grade project: The Cost of Power: A Cost Analysis of Different Battery Brands
What stood out to her about this project was that it was difficult to design and was inspired mainly by Hurricane Florence. The hurricane caused severe power outages, which piqued her curiosity about brand effectiveness and efficiency, leading her to study the cost of batteries when compared to the time they lasted. As a result, she won 1st at locals, 2nd at regionals, and 2nd at NC SEF, where she was also nominated to apply to the Broadcom MASTERS. However, she was not selected into the top 300.2020, 9th grade project: Sponge that Spill!
This year’s project was impacted by the COVID19 shutdown. Initially, she was planning to do a project with music & cognitive abilities. Due to the fact that she did not know enough people and did not have a homeschool IRB, Krisalyn was unable to perform this experiment. She shifted her research focus to testing the most effective method to clean up oil spills. While she was reluctant about her true interest in this, she did find that this project was quite interesting. Through her research and trials, she found out that polypropylene pompoms are the most effective method of cleaning up oil. Prior to the full shutdown, Krisalyn was able to compete locally at a homeschool fair in Jacksonville, where she won 2nd place, losing by only a couple of points to one of her friends. She advanced to the Region 2 fair, where she was awarded a 3rd place regular award and a 3rd place special award from the North Carolina American Water Works Association. Krisalyn would have gone to NC SEF, but with the shutdown was unable to compete.2021, 10th grade project: An Illuminating Investigation: Testing the Level of Chemiluminescence in Synthetic Blood when Sprayed with a Luminol Solution of Different Oxidizers
This project, her favorite science fair experiment, explored the effectiveness of luminol solutions that could be used by forensic scientists to identify blood at crime scenes. She competed virtually at regionals, in the end winning an exemplary mention at the regional fair, being nominated to compete for the Wayne Hanson Award for Excellence in Science and Engineering, and promoting to the state level competition. While she did not place at NC SEF, Krisalyn was able to compete virtually in the Senior Division Chemistry Category and present her research publicly in the 2 Minutes with a Mic Live event.
As Krisalyn prepares for 11th grade, she looks forward to continuing to volunteer at church, preparing for her next science fair project, participating in a summer reading program, and taking Earth Science and finishing Algebra II. In the future she is interested in possibly pursuing a teaching degree. She may focus on high school literature instruction if she decides to pursue the teaching pathway. Ultimately, she plans to have children and use her teaching degree for homeschooling her family.When we asked Krisalyn to provide 1 piece of advice for a young person who is interested in Science or Engineering, she said,
“Keep trying, even when you fail. Keep trying and go again. You can make it if you try.”