West Contra Costa secondary school students put on a strong showing in the always competitive San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair by winning 18 awards, with one entrant taking the event's grand prize.

El Cerrito High 10th-grader Gwendolyn Gilbert-Snyder was the showcase winner at the competition, held during the last week of March at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, for her project "Discovering the Magnus Effect."

Gildert-Snyder's grand prize project will now be entered in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, taking place May 11-16 in Los Angeles, competing against entries from some 1,600 high school students from more than 70 countries for more than $4 million in awards.

The Bay Area fair had entries from 14 West Contra Costa students who won 18 awards.

Seven awards went to projects from Portola Middle School in El Cerrito that advanced from the district fair.

Eighth-graders Elena Nirgiotis ("Heads or Tails") and Megan Chen ("Magnets") took third place awards; Alyssa Cho ("Boost It Up") and Julia Walker ("Kite Tales") won second place awards. Seventh grade winners were Max Mueller ("Are Black Balls Better Than White Balls at Evaporation Control?"), third place; and Cameron Gillern ("Accelerated: The Ripening Project") and Cloe Coscoy ("The Effects of Wi-Fi Waves on Plant Health") with fourth place awards.


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Eighth-grader Nicole Stokowski of Mira Vista in El Cerrito ("Flute") won first place and St. Jerome Catholic School seventh-grader Autumn Fehr ("GMO vs. Non-GMO") won third place.

Pinole Middle School seventh-grader Matthew Blizard ("Wiggly Jiggly Gelatin") won fourth place.

Pinole Valley High School 11th-grader Samantha Sze ("Racing on an Angled Curved and Straight Slope by Mass and Time") won second place.

Along with Gilbert-Snyder, winners from El Cerrito High were 11th-grader Kai Marshland ("Dart vs. JavaScript: A Benchmarked Comparison of Two Client-Side Languages"), first place; and 11th-grader Julia Shebek ("Pitch and Temperature"), third place.

Marshland also was honored with the fair's Yale Science and Engineering Award.

First- and second-place winners were eligible to advance to the California State Fair Science Fair in Los Angeles on April 28 and 29.

GARAGE SALE WEEKENDS: El Cerrito and Albany are holding citywide garage sales on consecutive weekends.

El Cerrito's event is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3, and lists of registered locations are available online at el-cerrito.org; at the Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane; and the Recycling Center, 7501 Schmidt Lane.

Albany's event is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 10, with a list of participating sites available at www.albanyca.org; the Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave.; the Community Development Department, 1000 San Pablo Ave.; and the Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave.

Bike to Work Day: The annual event encouraging people to pedal to the job returns on May 8, when the group Bike East Bay partners with local agencies to host "energizer" locations at BART stations and other sites to assist riders on their commute with refreshments, swag and bicycling information.

A list of energizer locations is online at www.ebbc.org/energizer and details on the event can be found at bicycling.511.org.

The event is not confined to commuters, however. The Alameda County Transportation Commission is also promoting Bike to School Day on May 8, now in its 20th year of encouraging children to "walk, bike and carpool to school in large groups or parades, supported by parents, teachers and principals."

Among the participating campuses will be Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley. Learn more at www.alamedacountysr2s.org.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: The annual Junktique Sale Extravaganza at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St. in Point Richmond is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3.

"Come early to avail yourself of the bargains and unbelievable one-of-a-kind items," says the church announcement. "The kitchen crew will dish up chili, minestrone soup, hot dogs and pie by the slice at lunchtime to give you strength to stay longer.

Details: www.pointrichmondmethodist.org

  • There will also be bargains at the book sale from 1 to 3 p.m. May 3 at the El Sobrante Library, in the little house behind the branch at 4191 Appian Way. The selection will include "books on parenting, health, cooking, many novels, DVDs and a whole room devoted to children's books."

  • The Drama Department at Contra Costa College in San Pablo is commemorating the birth of William Shakespeare 450 years ago this month by presenting "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in performances at 8 p.m. May 2 and 3 at the Knox Center for Performing Arts, corner of Castro Road and El Portal Drive on the CCC campus. Tickets are $15 general, $10 students.

  • A pair of American Red Cross blood drives are being held next week in Berkeley.

    Hosting locations are Berkeley Hillel, 2736 Bancroft Way, from noon to 5 p.m. May 5 and a UC Berkeley drive at 2537 Haste St. from noon to 6 p.m. May 6.

    For details or an appointment call 800-733-2767 or visit redcrossblood.org.

  • UC Berkeley insect biology Professor Gordon Frankie will discuss "Bees and Flowers: A Selective Love Affair" when the Pinole Garden Club meets at 2 p.m. May 13 in the Alex Clark Room of the Public Safety Facility, 800 Tennent Ave.

    The talk is free and open to the public. For more details call 510-758-2309.

  • Handmade items for the whole family will be offered at the Mother's Day Craft Sale being held by the El Sobrante Art Guild from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 2 to 10 at 3500B Klose Way in Richmond. The crafters have pledged to donate 10 percent of all sales "to art programs, students and teachers in West Contra Costa County." Details: elsobranteartguild.org or 510-619-8051.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.