A Bayville student beyond his years

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From science and sports to literature and classical music, John Hartnett is a man of many interests. He’s a two-time national winner in the Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision program, and hopes to someday become a physicist. He plans to work closely with Toshiba to help further the research and projects of the students who participate in its competitions.

And he’s only 10.

John is a fourth-grader at Bayville Intermediate School who has always been passionate about science and physics. “It’s a large field where it’s not farfetched for someone to make a discovery,” he explained. “In some fields it’s impossible to make a discovery, but in physics there’s always something that’s constantly evolving.”

John, along with his classmate Matthew Santibanez, were regional and national winners for their science project Robotic Cleaning Bivalves, a device that has the potential to remove harmful chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls from contaminated rivers.

“Pollution is a problem that has a huge scope in so many different categories,” John said. “It’s a huge issue, but there are ways to tackle it at small portions at a time.”

Mike Hartnett, John’s father, said that his son’s intellect grew vastly during his years with the ExploraVision program. “It’s given him the ability to articulate and make sense out of his project,” he said. “The more he explains his project, the more ideas pop into his head.”

John’s fascination with science and physics is what fuels his love for knowledge. Mike and his wife, Amy, said they have no idea where their son’s passion came from, but they have always supported him along the way.

“He seems to be interested in everything,” Mike said. “He’s interested in sophisticated things, so we have conversations where he’s able to express himself and share many of his ideas.” He added that even during idle conversations, John won’t hesitate to grammatically correct himself, or his parents. Amy said that while most of the father-son conversations are one-sided, with John doing most of the talking, his receptiveness is what helps him learn.

John’s bedroom is a multifaceted exhibit of his diverse interests. On one wall are decals of the characters from “Star Wars.” On the other walls are decals of the New York Knicks and Mets, along with his framed science awards. A student-athlete, he also has a collection of awards he’s won playing baseball, basketball and soccer. His bookshelf, meanwhile, is lined with tomes on science and mythology. Unlike most 10-year-olds, he finds reading books more satisfying than playing video games. “I just found video games to be very frustrating,” he said with a shrug, “because I was never good at them.”

John attributes his knowledge and advanced vocabulary to having a father who is an English teacher. His parents say there’s a lot more to it, however. “He has really good retention,” Amy said. “Whenever I used to read him stories, he would just recite them [back] to me.”

She recalled that John began memorizing Dr. Seuss books when he was 2. He has read the Smithsonian Encyclopedia three times.

He has played the piano since he was in kindergarten, and he recently started playing the French horn in the school’s music program. Between his classes and his extracurricular activities, Amy said, she believes that the Locust Valley School District has provided “unbelievable opportunities” for her son to succeed. “I really cannot stress that enough,” she said. “Thanks to the school district, I can’t imagine what the last few years would be like if he hadn’t been involved with Toshiba.”

John said that his experiences at Bayville Intermediate and Toshiba have been “unforgettable,” and added that he hopes to stay involved in physics for many years to come.