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Science prize: Secret Service

The eighth-grade scientist who went to Washington wins an award: a day with the Secret Service.

By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 24, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- Kristin Grotecloss, an eighth-grader at Southside Fundamental Middle School, won one of eight special prizes given Wednesday by judges at a national science fair in Washington, D.C.

It's not first, second or third place; but it's a pretty cool award: a day with the Secret Service, which could mean riding in a motorcade or spending a few hours at the White House.

Kristin, 14, was one of 40 students who won an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the finals of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, a five-day competition of team challenges and oral presentations.

The straight-A student was given an award for demonstrating "a mastery of observational technique and exhibiting a consistent pattern of perceptive data analysis."

"In layman's terms, you could call her a quick study," said Kyle O'Connor, one of the founders of the four-year-old science contest and a vice president with Discovery Communications.

Kristin designed her science project last year after reading a New York Times article about witness police lineups. She tested a sequential lineup presentation vs. a simultaneous or traditional "six-pack" lineup in eyewitness identifications. The results strongly supported Kristin's hypothesis: that a sequential lineup presentation would decrease the number of false identifications by eyewitnesses.

Her project garnered her a first place last year in the behavioral and social science division of the Pinellas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. She also won best of show.

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