By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
GLADSTONE — St. Andrew was a fisherman, not a scientist, but the middle school students at St. Andrew the Apostle School sure seem headed in that direction. In fact, out of a total of 921 projects exhibited, they placed first in three of eight Junior High divisions at the Greater Kansas City Science Fair, held March 23-26 at Union Station in Kansas City. Those three projects, and their scientific investigators, have been nominated to participate in the BROADCOM National Science Fair later this year. St. Andrew students also brought home a total of 15 gold, silver and bronze ribbons, and several special awards for their science projects.
Their teacher, Wendy McKellar, loves science and communicates that love to her students. One of her favorite quotes, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” (Plutarch) exemplifies her thoughts on teaching science.
This year’s science fair grew out of last year’s fair, McKellar said. Students were able to expand upon ideas they had last year. “And the ideas were so great!” she said. Ranging from astronomy to zoology, the students put heart and soul and mind into their projects.
“It was so exciting to watch them,” McKellar, who has taught science for more than 20 years, said. “It was obvious that they had ownership of what they were learning from their projects. They got to learn from their own investigative curiosity, and have fun with it, all the way from wondering if wintergreen gum glows in the dark when it’s being chewed to more sophisticated projects. All their projects were outstanding!”
The entire middle school took a field trip to Union Station to see all 921 exhibits, and while they were there, the winning students first learned of their achievements.
Eighth graders Tommy Geisinger, Owen Shields and Kyle Tomc were curious about the combination of magnets and speed. They built a Magnetic levitation train which was suspended with no power except magnetic fields, and compared the speed of the train to the speed of Hot Wheels cars. The project won first place in the Force and Motion Junior Team Division.
Gaby Chirpich, seventh grade, was fascinated by magnets themselves. She investigated the magnetized force of several kinds and shapes of magnets. Her project took first place in the Engineering Junior Division.
The seventh grade team of Connor Thomas and Noah Fakeri were interested in behavior. They tested “fidgets,” blankets, squeeze balls and chewing gum on fellow students, to demonstrate which fidget promoted better concentration. Their project took first place in the Behavioral Sciences Junior Team Division.
The three projects were nominated to the national science fair, and their scientists received a purple rosette ribbon and a plaque for their achievement.
Gold ribbons were awarded for exemplary achievement for the grade level. Gold ribbon winners from St. Andrew’s School included:
St. Andrew’s Principal Wayne Winkler is proud, and impressed with the middle school students. “I was impressed with how hard they worked, and the high quality of their work,” he said.
Having three student projects nominated to go to the national science fair is a great honor for the students, and for St. Andrew’s, to have them represent the school, Winkler said.
“I really think the kids like working in the science labs,” he continued. “It allows them to reach their full potential, expand their horizons. They are not just listening, they are actively learning. They listen to what their teacher says, think about what they’ve read and then take what they heard or read to another level. They work with it.”
Networking company BROADCOM Corporation, based in California, announced in September 2010 a six-year $6 million partnership with the Society for Science and The Public, to launch a middle school competition focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. Through local science fairs, 7,500 candidates will be identified for the national program. Following state and regional competitions, 30 finalists will be selected to compete in Washington, D.C., in the fall.