Cherokee Nation student wins national science fair


Sinihele Rhoades stands with her automaton science fair project. Rhoades placed first at the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 23. 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Immersion Charter School fifth-grader Sinihele Rhoades recently took first place in the engineering category at the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M.

After watching the movie “Hugo” and admiring its automatons, Rhoades built her own mechanical toy flying serpent that moves by turning a crank for a science fair project. She wanted to showcase her culture, so she based the creation on the Cherokee antagonist Uktena. She used Cherokee syllabary in her display.

“Winning first means a lot to me, since I’m the only kid from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School to ever compete in the science fair and make it to the national level,” Rhoades, of Park Hill, said.

Rhoades placed first in the middle school division for the category of engineering: electrical and mechanical. She also won the IBM Innovation Award, Richard LaCourse Memorial Award, New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering Award, honorable mention for the Traditional Award and the U.S. Air Force Award.

“I’m definitely very proud of Sinihele,” said Kristin Thomas, a college resource specialist for the Cherokee Nation who tutors Sinihele in English and helped her proofread the project. “To see her take the initiative and then to succeed and do so well brought a great source of pride to me.”

Rhoades won nearly $500 and other prizes.

Sequoyah Schools also had eighth-grader Whitney Roach place third in the middle school division, plant sciences category. Fellow eighth-grader Onendanegea Rhoades, Sinihele’s older brother, placed third in engineering: materials and bioengineering category. He also won one of six IBM Innovation Awards given to more than 300 participants at the competition.

Cherokee Nation News Release
Julie Hubbard - 918-207-3896 

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