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franklin county times

West Lauderdale students headed to international competition

By Staff
SCIENCE FAIR Bridget Confait, left, and Elizabeth Harmon will leave this weekend for Louisville, Ky., to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair. The event begins Saturday and ends May 18. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
May 10, 2002
West Lauderdale High School will continue a tradition this weekend by sending students to Louisville, Ky., for the International Science and Engineering Fair.
But this year's event also signifies the end of an era longtime science teacher Nettie Mayatt will retire after 34 years in education. Mayatt will chaperone two students at the event.
This year, Mayatt will join Elizabeth Harmon, 18, a West Lauderdale senior, and Bridget Confait, 17, a West Lauderdale junior, at the fair set to begin Saturday and end May 18.
Harmon is one of 28 state finalists who will compete at the fair. Confait is attending as an alternate, meaning she will compete if Harmon is unable to do so.
Harmon's project
Harmon advanced to the international level of competition after placing in the regional science fair in March and in the state science fair in April.
She tested the effects of pressurized wood on the immune and circulatory systems of earthworms.
She dissected worms exposed to the wood and made photographs of slides that showed damage had been caused by the levels of copper, chromium and arsenic used to keep the wood from rotting.
She said the wood preservatives are killing earthworms. That, in turn, has an adverse effect on the environment because the worms enrich the soil.
Family influence
Harmon said her interest in environmental science comes partly from her father, a forester.
Harmon is the daughter of Becky and Gary Harmon of Bailey. She plans to attend Mississippi State University in Starkville this fall and major in communications.
Confait's science project tested the effects of nicotine on cholesterol.
She said her experiment shows that nicotine lowers the level of what is known as "good cholesterol" while raising the level of what is referred to as "bad cholesterol."
Confait wants to become a doctor.
But like Harmon, a parental example has had a bearing on her interests. Her mother is an occupational therapist. Confait is the daughter of Sheela and Dan Confait of Collinsville.
Upcoming retirement
For Mayatt, this marks her last year to teach.
She plans to enjoy more time at home in the Martin community with her husband, her two sons and her 10-month-old grandson.
Mayatt, who teaches Biology II, Advanced Placement Biology and Anatomy and Physiology, has had 54 students pass through her classes that have ultimately become finalists or alternates in the International Science and Engineering Fair.
A total of 61 students from West Lauderdale have participated in the event the past 16 years and have brought home 22 awards. Mayatt has taught at the school since 1969.
Mayatt said there is no teaching secret to the success of her students. She said many of her students have majored in the sciences and gone into research.

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