Big-box project earns big win for Owen Compani

Owen Compani stands by his project display

Anyone who’s shopped at a big-box store during non-pandemic times has likely encountered lots of vehicles and shoppers near the entrance while empty parking spaces fan out far and beyond. But what can you do about it?

If you are B-P Middle School eighth-grade student Owen Compani, you take your curiosity, combine it with research and problem solving, tap into your love of science and social studies, develop potential solutions, and submit your proposal to a regional science competition. And then you win.

Owen won the U.S. Air Force and Reserve Award, ISEF Awardees Junior Division, and the 1st Honorable Mention Award, Grand Prize Junior Division, in the Greater Capital Region Science and Engineering Fair for his project, “Move It! Enhancing Vehicle Traffic Patterns at a Big-Box Store.”

The fair was held virtually on March 21, 2020, with Owen and fellow competitors teleconferencing with six judges. The judges, who had links to the students’ papers and project posters, questioned each competitor about their project. Owen connected via telephone from a bedroom in his home, with his project board at his side, and presented his project three times during the event.

“It was a lot of fun listening to the other students present their projects on bacteria in clothes dryers, the effects of road salt on plants, and the use of peppermint on carpenter ants,” Owen said.

When the judges asked Owen if he was going to share his project with the store, he replied yes, but not until after the COVID-19 crisis. Owen said one of the judges was very excited, and she thought the project idea was “awesome.”

Owen and his family shop frequently at a local big-box store. He said that there always seemed to be congestion with traffic and patrons, with many cars parked close to the building, while other parking areas remained empty. He thought the situation would be a good project for the fair because, “it was different from other projects typically done, and it was something that I thought about each time we pulled into the parking lot.” 

Owen’s science teacher, Anita Stabrowski, was his sponsoring teacher for the Greater Capital Region Science and Engineering Fair, a role she also played last year, when Owen entered the competition for the first time. She assisted Owen with research ideas, reviewed his paper and supported his efforts. 

Owen’s mom, B-P School Psychologist Erin Compani, noted that Owen became interested in participating in the fair after attending the competition for the past four years to support his older brother.

Owen’s awards include a cash prize, U.S. Air Force swag and an invitation to submit his research to the Society for Science & the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS® (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition for sixth through eighth grade students. Award winners in that annual competition will be announced in the fall.

Owen’s career goal is to become a radiologist. And while he loves science and social studies, he enjoys a range of activities in school and the community. He serves as president of the National Junior Honor Society, plays trumpet in the band and jazz band, and is a member of the Future Cities Club and MS Iron Junior Chef Team. Owen is also an altar server at St. Stephen’s Church and is a Life Scout with Troop 48, Amsterdam. He’s currently working on his Eagle Scout project, a Rosary Garden for St. Stephen’s Church. 

For more information about the Greater Capital Region Science and Engineering Fair, visit