Gulliver Prep senior Melanie Martucci is the Prep’s Silver Knight nominee in the area of Science. Martucci makes knit hats for premature babies.
“In eighth grade at Gulliver Academy, my teacher made me aware that when babies are born prematurely, they lose a lot of heat through their heads,” she says. “I began making the knit hats in eighth grade and I kept it going throughout high school.”
She donates the hats to Baptist Children’s Hospital, Jackson Memorial’s Holtz Children’s Hospital and Jack Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. She uses a machine that she purchased from her former teacher.
“Basically, the machine knits it for you,” she says. “You thread the yarn into the machine. You make a general pattern and you fold it into that shape.”
Over the years, she has donated between 200-300 hats.
“I usually stick to one size with the machine—you can make them as big or small as you want,” she says. “Because of the material it can fit babies of two pounds or five pounds.”
Martucci wants to continue making the caps even when she goes away to college.
“There are a lot more hospitals I could donate to,” she says. “The machine is portable.”
For four years, she has been taking courses at Gulliver’s Biomedical Engineering program.
This year she has teamed up with students in the engineering program to tackle the problem of blue green algae. The team is developing a testing system to detect blue green algae in the water.
“We found there are a lot of cases where there are pets swimming in the lakes, and because it’s (the blue green algae) toxic it ends up killing the pets,” she says. “We wanted to come up with a way to test the water so you would know whether or not it’s safe to let your pets go in.”
After rejecting one concept of adding chemicals to potentially contaminated water because it became too complicated, the team is working on a concept that allow someone to use their phone camera lens to detect a certain pigment that’s given off they the blue green algae.
“This problem hits close to home,” she says. “I have a dog. A lot of people working on the problem have pets and that’s why we feel so strongly about the issue.”
The team entered their business proposition in the Conrad Challenge, an innovation and entrepreneurial challenge started by former astronaut Pete Conrad.
“If we pass into the next round, then we will present a prototype,” she says.
Last summer, Martucci went to the Transplant Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital to observe.
“I got the opportunity to observe transplants,” she says. “And I got to go on teaching rounds with medical students.”
She wanted to observe the program because she is interested in pursing medicine as a career.
To that end, she is considering majoring in biology or another science in college and minoring in music.
So far, she’s been accepted to the University of Miami and Southern Methodist University.
She is waiting to hear from eight more colleges before making her decision.
Martucci is in the Music Club and the Tri-M, the music honor society. She plays flute in the orchestra and she’s the flute section leader in the wind ensemble. She’s the band president.
“Sometimes I’ll warm up the band, and if the teacher is not there I’ll conduct and run through music,” she says.
Martucci is a member of the GOALS Club, the French National Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and Ro Kappa, the social science honor society.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld