Alora Siegel at February Hilltop science fair

Hilltop High School student Alora Siegel stands with the display of the welding project that won her the Governor’s Thomas Edison STEM Award this year.

When Alora Siegel came home from a 4-H Youth Development and Mentoring STEM summer camp four years ago, she came back with a passion: Welding.

The now-Hilltop High School student continued to do it through 4-H and around the family farm, helping when needed.

Siegel then turned her passion into a science project this past year, and won the Governor’s Thomas Edison Award, given to 28 out of 797 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) participants in the Ohio Academy of Science’s 72nd State Science Day, in a virtual ceremony on July 14.

“I was super excited,” Siegel said. “I would have never expected that.”

Siegel was recognized in the Advanced Materials category, which Siegel said focuses on “getting into the finer” details of working with different materials.

For her project, which she started last June and came up with two years ago, Siegel presented “what welding process most accurately represents filler materials specifications.”

“I had a TIG welder, a MIG welder and a stick welder, and I welded six pieces of each one,” Siegel said. “And then I used the Tinius Olsen testing machine to test the tensile strength of them, to be able to compare which one is the strongest.

“I found that the TIG welding works the best, and I did some research on why that was.”

Siegel’s research showed it was because the TIG welder uses tungsten, which “makes it a lot stronger.”

Siegel’s judges, according to her teacher of the last two years, Abbie Smith, said they thought Siegel has a “great evaluation of existing processes” and that she “clearly had a deep understanding of this topic.”

“Alora is a wonderful student,” Smith said. “She is conscientious and has an inquiring mind ... She has a competitive nature.”

Siegel wasn’t able to present her project in person, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic forced this year’s State Science Day to be held online instead of being held May 9 on the Ohio State University campus, and contestants had to submit their reports, photos and a video no longer than 10 minutes online.

Siegel said the time limitation, along with not being in person to describe to a judge your project, made this year’s competition more difficult.

“I feel like it’s easier to be able to explain your project, and tell if it’s easier for them to understand,” Siegel said. “Whereas, if you’re on a video, it’s not as easy to be able to understand. Plus, you can explain things in detail if they don’t understand it.”

Siegel’s parents understand it though, and are fully behind their daughter’s passion.

And they saw Siegel’s passion for welding when she came home from that STEM camp four years ago, too.

“She couldn’t wait to get into her dad’s welder,” said Ashley, Alora’s mother. “She went right into the shop, and said, ‘Dad, I want to weld.’ And it kind of just took off from there.”

From there, Alora started to take welding classes in Columbus, was crowned the 2019 Ohio State Champion 4-H Welding champion, won the Governor’s Award at the district level, the Sumner Award — given to the top junior high science project at Hilltop — and was one of the top five projects in Ohio’s Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

She also won superiors — the top recognized category at science fairs and a requirement to qualify for the Governor’s Thomas Edison Award — at the local, district and state levels.

“I really like being out in the shop and being able to work with things that not every female works with,” Siegel said.

Ashley said Alora likes to make art with welding, and can also help “if a hitch needs to be welded up on the farm.”

Ashley also said it is great for Alora “to find something so young that she really enjoys.”

“I’m very proud of her,” Ashley said. “I’m glad that she’s found something she loves to do. She really looks forward to the science fair year-to-year.”

And while it’s still early for her to decide what to do for a living, Alora said there’s a good chance it’ll involve welding.

“I can see it in my future, hoping to go into a field that way,” Alora said.

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