Main Line Student Wins Google Science Fair Award For Fracking Project

Devon Prep freshman won a local award and regional finalist recognition.
DEVON, Pa. - Oct. 28, 2014 - PRLog -- An interest in the environment and desire for a cleaner and safer world recently earned Devon Prep Freshman Matthew Siracusa of Newtown Square a Local Award and Regional Finalist recognition in the 2014 International Google Science Fair ( The Google Science Fair is a global online science and technology competition open to individuals and teams from ages 13 to 18.

Siracusa was recognized for his project “A Method for Mobile Study of Fracking Sites.”  He created a custom made apparatus designed and fabricated to monitor the environment in the vicinity of fracking wells from a moving vehicle.  The apparatus consists of a laptop running custom software, Garmin GPS Antenna, Gas Detector, and Progeny Detector. The apparatus captures GPS coordinates, CO2, alkanes, volatile organic compounds, and radiation levels.

Siracusa tested his monitor in the vicinity of the Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania where he traveled to two well sites (5 well heads).  His field tests found a relationship of increased radiation in the vicinity of hydraulic fracturing sites confirming the results performed by other institutions.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the process of drilling and injecting fluid (usually chemicals and sand suspended in water ) into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.  The fracking process can release both radon and methane and the liquid which is pumped contains dangerous chemicals. The equipment associated with fracking also releases pollution including numerous volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Siracusa’s project states that there are greater than 493 thousand hydraulic fracturing wells across 31 states in the United States according to Focusing onsite monitoring efforts in areas where elevated levels of radioactivity, alkanes, and volatile organic compounds are detected would improve monitoring efforts. This is especially true where contamination may lead to ground water runoff to nearby wells, creeks, ponds, lakes, and streams.

According to Siracusa, “Nationwide 50% of fracking sites are monitored. My method reduces the cost of monitoring by focusing efforts in geographical areas where radiation, alkanes and volatile organic compounds indicators are higher.  I feel that periodic studies performed by universities or government onsite inspections may not go far enough.  My method would provide information needed for subsequent targeted onsite inspections.”

As a Local Winner in the Google Science Fair the 14 year old was awarded a prize valued at $1,000 to help further his project and education. Siracusa intends to do just that with a new field study that would include visiting central impoundment pits, sedimentation ponds, streams, and well sites adjacent to public roads.

“I hope that in the future my life leads me to a career in science and engineering,” he said. “I desire a cleaner and safer world and would like to continue my environmental studies.”

Siracusa’s project can be seen at

Devon Prep is a private Catholic, college preparatory school for young men in grades six through 12 conducted by the Piarist Fathers and located on the Main Line. Devon Prep will host an Open House on Sunday, October 12 from 1-4 PM on campus, 363 North Valley Forge Road, Devon PA. For more information call 610-688-7337, visit or email admissions@

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