Island Coast High School freshman Tryston Wipf had the perfect strategy on what project to do for his science class; something he had a passion for.
It was that plan which made him a Grand Award winner at the 57th annual Thomas Alva Edison Kiwanis Science and Engineering Fair last month, with the prize being a four-year scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University.
Wipf, who takes pre-advanced placement biology, said the project was a requirement. But when he realized he could do what he wanted, he could actually do something great for the community.
So, he did it on an area still near to people's hearts; which material absorbs oil the best out of salt water after spills occur.
"I took water from the gulf and put it in a bowl and put crude oil in it, then put the sorbents into the water," Wipf said. "I weighed the water before and after the oil was absorbed."
He discovered that wang paper is the best material to use because unlike the others he tried, the paper allowed the oil to be recycled.
After it won the school science fair, the experiment was sent to the Edison Fair in the category of environmental science.
At the fair, held at Harborside Convention Center, Wipf's project was observed by judges. He had to complete a written report, a backboard, make sure his sources were stated properly, and make sure the research was actually completed. He even had to go to the judges and explain his theory.
Having few expectations, seeing as there were nearly 400 other exceptional projects there, Wipf was shocked when he learned he had won.
"I didn't even know you could win a scholarship. I thought you'd get a trophy or an award," Wipf said. "So I was shocked."
Melody Galka, Tryston's biology teacher, was at the event keeping tally of the scores, and she realized they hadn't called his name when it came time to give out the awards.
"I was getting more excited and when they called his name it was incredible. I was very proud of him," Galka said. 'When I saw his family's reaction, it was touching. His grandmother was very emotional."
"It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I didn't think it could happen," Wipf said. "I'm pretty much set for college. All I have to do is keep my grades up."
Wipf will take his experiment to The State Science and Engineering Fair in Lakeland from April 8-10. If he passes the muster there, he will go to California for the international science fair.
Wipf, who plays football at Island Coast, said he is hoping to get an athletic scholarship somewhere, but if that doesn't materialize, having the FGCU scholarship is a good option.
He said right now he wants to be a doctor, or maybe get into some sort of environmental science, but isn't sure right now.
He does know he wants to try again and maybe win another scholarship at the fair so he can go to school for eight years. In fact, he already knows what experiment he'll do.
"I'm going to do what material will be able to pick up the oil and be recycled the best," Wipf said.