Kyle Calandra, 15, can’t recall exactly when he got into science. He said the thrill of discovery has been with him for as long as he can remember.
But while his latest project wasn’t the beginning, it earned him an invitation to an international science conference in Chile.
The project is titled "Could a diabetic meet the requirements to become an astronaut?’’ It hits close to home for Calandra, who is diabetic. The study compared a nondiabetic’s blood glucose levels to those of a diabetic, and analyzed nutrition, daily activity and other factors. Kyle concluded that although insulin dependency does not make space travel impossible for diabetics, the many side effects of the disease, such as kidney disease and poor circulation, make it too risky.
Calandra, an east Mesa resident and student at Gilbert Technology and Leadership Academy, is no stranger to scientific achievement. A twoyear botany study, involving 32 plants and hundreds of charts exploring the effect of light in different environments, won regional and state awards both years. Discovery Channel recognized his achievements two years in a row.
And he still has three years of high school to go.
Dawn Calandra, Kyle’s mother, worked at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in May. While there, she heard about the International Exposcience Conference in Santiago, Chile, from Rose Perez, who is on the executive committee of International Movement for Leisure Activities in Science and Technology, or MILSET, which sponsors the conference.
"We see projects here that compete at the world level. The more I heard about Kyle’s project, the more I could tell it was of the highest quality,’’ Perez said.
Two weeks later, Kyle received an invitation to attend the conference, which runs July 3-8.
This is the 10th annual Exposcience Conference, held in different locations every other year since 1987. During even years, each continent holds a conference.
"I’m excited about the opportunity,’’ Kyle said. "I’m looking forward to meeting people from around the world and discussing science and world issues.’’
At the conference, which is for students ages 10 to 22, projects will be on display for the public, as in a traditional science fair. Participants will attend interactive workshops, take in the culture of Santiago and exchange ideas with other prominent young scientists.
About 85 countries will be represented at the conference. This is the first year Arizona has sent a participant, and Kyle is the only Arizona attendee.
Andrea Ettenberger, Kyle’s science teacher, said she was not surprised Kyle was invited.
"He’s always done above and beyond what he needs to do in science,’’ Ettenberger said, adding that Kyle’s creativity serves him well. "He is creative in his approach. He has great questioning skills and interviewing skills, and he doesn’t follow everybody else, which is important in science.’’
Ettenberger, Dawn Calandra and others hope to work as volunteers in coming years to raise awareness and allow more students from the United States — especially Arizona — to attend the conference each year.
Kyle, who also paints and plays guitar, said he wants to study music and art in college.
"But it is kind of the same as science,’’ he said. "I’m communicating my feelings when I draw or play, and I’m communicating in the same way when I do science fairs.’’
How you can help
The Calandras are still trying to raise money to attend the conference. Donations are tax deductible. To learn more, call Dawn Calandra at (480) 403-1703. For information about the conference, visit www.esi2005.com.