Bishop Luers High School freshman Jessica Hartmus has taken her science fair projects to the missionary lands of Africa. At the encouragement of Father Sebastian Twinomugabi, known in Uganda as the “brick priest” and who was the parochial vicar at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Huntington, Jessica has been involved in a brick-building project that aids the people of Fort Portal Diocese in Uganda, in building stronger homes and structures.
Father Sebastian approached Jessica with the idea of assisting him with the engineering needs of the Ugandan people when Jessica was in seventh grade at Huntington Catholic School. He noticed her engineering mind and tapped into her creativity to help with the brick-building project in Uganda.
For the last two years, first as an eighth-grade student at Huntington Catholic and now as a freshman at Bishop Luers High School, Jessica’s science fair projects involved designing a drying rack for the bricks. The bricks must “cure” for a certain amount of time to be utilized for building homes or other structures.
At the regional fair at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne in early April, Jessica received the University of Notre Dame College of Engineering – Top Engineering Award, which was selected from all the projects at the fair in grades 4-12. She received a $250 cash award, which Jessica will probably use to purchase wood for her engineering models.
Jessica says she purchases scrap wood at local home building stores to construct the models and uses her own funds to buy the wood. Because of the size of the projects, she assembles the models at the family’s business, Economy Machine Products, Inc., in Roanoke.
Jessica’s goal at the regional science fair is to spread the word about her project and needs of the people in Uganda. Although she did not advance to the international science fair this year, several judges, even though she was not on their schedules to judge, wanted to hear more about Jessica’s brick-making project.
So far this year, Jessica has received $400 in cash awards, enough to finance her next steps and fund the purchase of another acre of land in Uganda, which runs about $500 per acre.
Jessica truly embodies Luers Spirit. Bishop Luers is also a Catholic Relief Services Global Catholic High School, which encourages a missionary spirit throughout the world.