See what Atlantic Beach resident Kayla Palumbo did at the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair


Atlantic Beach resident Kayla Palumbo has given new meaning to the term Blue Light Special, with an attention-getting science project focusing on the effects of that light on the mobility of flies and their lifespan.

Palumbo, a Sacred Heart Academy senior, has advanced to the second round of the Charles Duggan Long Island Science and Engineering Fair.

Stephen Sullivan, Sacred Heart’s science research program adviser, has watched the Cornell-bound Palumbo mature as a student and as a burgeoning scientist.

“She’s a great young women,” said Sullivan, who has taught Palumbo since she was a sophomore. “I got to watch her grow.”

The project stemmed from Palumbo’s interest in the effects of blue light and products that block it. “Over the pandemic, a lot of friends were wearing them because we were on our computers all day,” she said, referring to blue light blocking glasses, something she never used because she was skeptical of them.

Kayla and her father, Mark Palumbo, constructed an “almost laboratory-quality” habitat, Sullivan said, in which she conducted studies on flies to determine the effects of the light on them. According to her findings, certain blue light blocking technologies work only at specific light intensities, Palumbo said.

When Sullivan shared the news with her that her project had made it to the second round of the competition, she was surprised. “I think my exact text was, ‘Wait are you serious?’” Palumbo recounted.

Round one of the LISEF was held on Jan. 31 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Palumbo’s project was up against 403 others involving 494 students from 64 schools across Long Island.

There were 15 project categories, ranging from animal science to molecular biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry and material science, physics and astronomy, microbiology and biochemistry, and robotics. Palumbo’s project was one of 25 percent that advanced to Round 2 in the animal science category.

Experts in their respective fields not only talk with the students at the fair, but also judge the projects, Angela Lukaszewski, the fair’s director, noted in an email.

“We ask our judges to concentrate on two areas: Creativity and Presentation,” Lukaszewski wrote. “Creativity demonstrates imagination and inventiveness. We suggest that the judges place emphasis on research outcomes in evaluating creativity. Presentation/interview: the interview gives the judges the opportunity to evaluate the students’ understanding of the project’s basic science, interpretation and limitations of the results and conclusions.”

Sullivan said he was confident in Palumbo’s speaking skills, which Palumbo said she believed helped her advance. “I think I just presented to the judges well,” she said.

Round 2 will be held at Crest Hollow on March 5, and will be followed by an awards ceremony. Scores from the two rounds will determine the winners in each category to move on to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles from May 11-17.

The Regeneron ISEF will feature over 1,500 students in ninth through 12th grades from more than 75 countries, regions and territories, Lukaszewski wrote in the LISEF welcome letter.

“We congratulate them on the work they have done,” she wrote. “Even though in some instances their research outcomes may not have demonstrated their initial goal, they should still be proud of it, because it has added to an existing body of knowledge.”

Palumbo, who will head to Cornell University this fall to study engineering, is preparing for the second round of the Long Island competition by rehearsing her presentation. “My research is done,” she said. “I’m really just practicing.”