By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Remember your grade school science fair? Growing molds, testing different bacterial slides or performing an experiment with hermit crabs? No more. Today’s fairs feature experiments in molecular biology, astrophysics and energy.
Six area Catholic grade schools participated in the 61st annual Greater Kansas City Science Fair, sponsored by Science Pioneers, held March 21-24 at Union Station.
Students from St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Patrick, St. Peter, St. Gabriel Archangel, Visitation and Our Lady of the Presentation competed in the fair which drew more than 1,300 students in grades 4-12 from all across the metro area.
St. Andrew the Apostle School in Gladstone sent 27 projects by 40 middle school students to the fair, and won 11 Gold (exemplary level of achievement), 13 Silver (superior level of achievement) and 3 Bronze (high level of achievement) ribbons, as well as several special awards given at the Charles N. Kimball Awards Ceremony.
Sixth grade projects included Coral Cataclysm by Lexie Chirpich, Gold ribbon and a second place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Color and Melting Ice by Walter Beardman and Blake Thomas, Gold and a Second Place award as an Intermediate Division Matter and Energy Team Project; Plants in Sunlight by Marie Loehr and Ashley Stitzer, Gold; Seed Growth by Joseph Granado, Silver ribbon; Smarties by Hannah Heinz, Frankie Civella, and Gabrielle Pesek, Silver; Plane Crazy by Benedict Motko, Bronze ribbon; and Eye Popping Experiment by Brendan McKellar and Will Brockman, Bronze.
Benedict said he likes airplanes and wanted to investigate their flight patterns and distances. He started out using a remote control plane, but it didn’t work out, so he switched to paper airplanes. “I made about 30 paper airplanes,” he said, “and 15 went with the project to the Science Fair.” His project won a First Place intermediate division Certificate of Recognition for an Outstanding Aviation Related Project by the Federal Aviation Administration, which he plans to frame.
Color and Melting Ice studied the effect different colors of cellophane have on melting ice. Blake Thomas and Walter Beardman covered identical plastic cups with different colors of cellophane and aluminum foil to see which cup of ice melted fastest. They timed the melting and learned that the foil and clear cellophane allowed the ice to melt the fastest, while yellow cellophane proved to slow the melting. Orange and red cellophane were right in the middle.
Seventh grade projects included Brain Buddy by Christina Kirk, which won a Gold ribbon and a second place award for Junior Inventions. Brain Buddy will also be on display for a month with about 20 other projects from the Science Fair, at the Linda Hall Library beginning April 16. The Dirty Truth about Soap by Grace Ross won Gold and will also be on display at the Linda Hall Library. Light Art, by Cassie Hayes, won Gold and a Naval Science Award certificate from the Office of Naval Research and a medallion from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
Gold ribbons also went to Oily Plants by Eilis Leptien; Turning Point by Camin Wilcox and Nicki Ragusa and Free Refills by Marisa Rockford. Silver ribbons went to Drag is a Drag by Sam Rathman, Light Bulb Attractions by Arnold Nguyen and Fun with Fog by Joseph Leggio and Ross Liberto. Brain Stimulation by Anthony Gurera won Bronze.
Christina Kirk was also invited by the League for Innovation in Community Colleges to participate in the Johnson County and Metropolitan community colleges STEMtech Conference. She was selected to be a mentor and discuss her Brain Buddy project with students during next year’s Science Pioneers Student Mentor Day.
Christina has been interested in the human brain for a while, but “there are not many learning devices to learn about the brain,” she said. So she made Brain Buddy, a clear plastic head with a clay “brain” attached to various wires that lit sections of the brain to illustrate impulses such as vision and pain, and emotion, including fear and joy. She got the idea from a website on MRI’s, magnetic resonance imaging. She is interested in learning more about neurons, synapses and impulses, and may consider medical school.
Fun with Fog examined the effect different liquids have on dry ice. Joseph Leggio said dry ice fascinates him, and he and Ross Liberto wanted to see what would happen if they put dry ice in liquids like honey or vegetable oil. Vegetable oil proved the most interesting, Ross said, bubbling slowly. Joseph said, “The honey was amazing. The viscosity of the honey allowed the dry ice to form bubbles, but prevented the honey from freezing except right around the dry ice. It was weird.”
Eighth grade experiments included Reading Under Light Colors, by Daniel Kremer, Gold; The Power of Music by Joey DeFabio and Sungheon Kim, Gold; Don’t Think About Cows by Luke Baker, Silver; Polycarbonate vs. Acrylic Glass by Nick Ferrara, Silver; Whorls, Loops and Arches by Maria Torres, Silver; Pillar vs Flood by Gaby Chirpich, Silver; Rockin’ Sports by Connor Thomas, Silver; Memory Mania by Teresa Deters and Clare McKellar, Silver; Pretty Packaging by Amelia Bresette, Jessica Stafford and Paige Hawkins, Silver; and Visual Illusions by Jenna Heinz and Sarah Abney, Silver.
Christina Kirk, Brain Buddy, Walter Beardman and Blake Thomas, Color and Melting Ice, were selected to compete in the Broadcom Masters (Math, Applied Sciences, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) National Science Fair, a competition for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students who participate in a fair affiliated with the Society for Science and the Public and are nominated to compete in it..
St. Andrew’s Middle School Science teacher Wendy McKellar said she was proud of her students and “blown away” by how well they did. “God smiled, I truly think, and the kids did work really hard,” she said.
St. Patrick School entered nine projects by 21 students in the Science Fair. Gold Ribbons were won for Does Odor Affect the Perception of Time? by Hannah Bateman, Bree Hurt and Linhthu Nguyen; How Quick Can You Click? by Aidan Decker and Quang Nguyen; Can Hot Peppers Cure Colds? by Arcadia Mejia and Hanna Ly; Germinating Snow Pea Plants, by Jessica Tran and Mikayla Alchin; Watch out, Flying Baseballs! by Mark Grant and Anuradha Jayakody; Dining Out with Germs by Daniel Comer, George Lofland and Kha Nguyen; The Big Dry Off by Viet Nguyen and Nick Rumbo, and Rare Earth Magnetics: is the Shape that the Ferrofluid Takes Affected By the Temperature at Which It Is Stored? by Noah Adams, Will Benson and Peter Trinh. Macy Drumwright and Alex Weber won Silver for The Effect of the ph Level on Black Mystery Snail Reproduction.
Two projects won special awards: The Big Dry Off and Rare Earth Magnetics.
In their project The Big Dry Off, Viet Nguyen and Nick Rumbo hypothesized that hot air hand dryers were cleaner than paper towels. After washing their hands at several fast food restaurants, and testing to see the amount of bacteria left on the hands after using the air dryers and paper towels, they learned that paper towels actually leave hands cleaner than hot air dryers.
Viet explained, “We went to several fast food places to wash our hands in their restrooms.”
“Yeah,” Nick said, “we washed our hands and dried them using both paper towels and the hot air dryers. Then we used a swab to wipe our palms and tested them for bacteria.”
The students found that paper towels were cleaner because the friction caused by the rough paper against the skin removed bacteria. The hot air dryers actually caused some bacteria to begin growing.
Viet and Nick’s project won a first place Intermediate Molecular Biology award; and were nominated for the Broadcom Masters competition. They were also invited to the STEMtech Conference Student Exhibition in October and selected to be student presenters at Science Pioneers’ Meet the Mentor Day.
Rare Earth Magnetics won a third place Intermediate Team Matter and Energy award for Noah Adams, Will Benson and Peter Trinh, who were invited to the October STEMtech conference student exhibition and nominated to the Broadcom Masters competition.
The idea for the project came from Noah’s dad. “He read an article about ferrofluid, which is an iron oxide fluid,” Noah said “and got me interested also. He ordered the ferrofluid from Amazon.com.”
Researchers Peter and Will experimented with different temperatures to see if the shape of the magnetic fluid changed when subjected to heat or cold and found slight changes.
St. Patrick’s fourth graders brought home gold and silver ribbons also. Gold ribbons went to Jimmy Moloney for Does the Type of Antifreeze Affect the Rate at Which Ice Will Melt?; Abby Folken, Cheyenne Neely and Xuan-Trang Nguyen for Statistical Analysis of Fingerprint Types; Nick Hicks and James Drumright for Does the Number of Enzymes in Laundry Detergent Affect Its Stain Removing Power? and Michael Koll for Does the Shape of a Parachute affect Its Rate of Descent?
Abby, Cheyenne and Xuan-Trang were invited to display their fingerprint project at the Linda Hall Library’s Science Fair exhibit later this month.
Twelve seventh and eighth grade projects traveled to the Science Fair from St. Gabriel Archangel School and came home winners. Gold winners included The Effect of Magnets on the Electromagnetic Field, by Spencer Wright; The Effect of Heat on Sunscreen by Ha Luu, Sydney Garcia and Andrew Cangelosi; The Cleaner, the Better? by Lawson Kalaiwaa; Effect of Air Pressure on a Basketball’s Bounce, by Rico Rodriguez, and Does Gender Have an Impact Upon How Optical Illusions are Perceived? by Ana Blazekovic. Ana’s experiment, which involved testing how males and females viewed optical illusions, also received special recognition from the U.S. Dept. of the Navy. “I noticed that men and women have different perceptions of things,” Ana said. “Men seem to see the big picture in what is going on, while women get caught up in small details. I wanted to see if the same applied to optical illusions.”
She used printouts of six illusions and asked the viewer to identify what the illusion was — what was the mistake, or how many of something were in the picture. Her results corroborated her hypothesis that men saw the big picture and women the details.
Silver ribbon winners included Smiles, Genuine or Counterfeit?, by Valencia Galvan; iPhone Directed Car, by Jack West; Magnetic Launch, by Adam Freese; Which one will take me the farthest?, by Zach Dickey; Hello Germs by Caroline Ramsey, and Helium Balloons in Different Temperatures by Ben Giebler.
The Effect of Acid Rain on Seed Germination by Archie Smith took Bronze.
Middle School Science teacher Leslie Carlisle said the students, all seventh and eighth graders, began working on the Science Fair last October. “They used a four question strategy,” she said, “beginning with what materials we have available here at school?
St. Gabe’s has been blessed with exceptional technology through some diocesan grants. Labquest for example, enables the students to collect data, such as temperatures or sounds and graphs the collected data for them, which can then be printed out. It really is an advanced level of data collection.”
Some of the projects were rather complex, while others were quite simple, including Rico Rodriguez’ Effect of Air Pressure on a Basketball’s Bounce. He used four things: a regulation NBA sized basketball and a size 3 basketball, both filled to 5 psi, an air pressure gauge and a stick ruler.
Carlisle has been teaching at St. Gabriel’s for six years and has taken student projects to several science fairs. “One thing I stressed to the students is that hypotheses don’t always have to agree with the data collected. That’s part of the experimental process. You just have to explain why they don’t agree.’
Rico’s hypothesis that the larger NBA basketball would bounce higher but with fewer repeats, did not agree with his results. The smaller ball bounced higher and longer.
St. Peter’s School sent 20 projects by 27 students to the Science Fair. Bob Jacobsen, longtime St. Peter’s teacher and veteran of many science fairs, said, “Fifteen of our projects earned the gold ribbon rating; five earned the silver ribbon rating. In addition, several of the students received special recognition during the Awards Ceremony.” All projects were by seventh and eighth graders.
Vitamin C Loss of Various Vegetables by 8th grader Sarah Cigas studied the resultant Vitamin C loss when different methods are used to cook vegetables. Sarah received a First Place Academic Grand Award in the Chemistry Junior High Division and a plaque for her exhibit based on academic qualities and the use of the scientific process.
All Wound Up by 7th grader Harrison Oest studied the effects of linear acceleration upon the distance a project would travel using various electromagnets. Harry received a First Place Academic Grand Award in the Forces and Motion Junior High Division and a plaque for his exhibit. He also won a certificate and $75 from the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers for the best Junior High electronic-engineering based project.
Sarah and Harry were invited to be student presenters at Meet the Mentor Day in October and to participate in the upcoming STEMtech Conference. Both students were also nominated to the Broadcom Masters competition.
In addition, Evan Meyer’s Burn the Best, in a tie with another student, won a Certificate of Achievement from the Modern Fire Safety Company for the best fire-related and fire-safety project. Megan Ennis’ Bacteria Mysteria won $100 from the Blue River Watershed Association for the best junior high project dealing with aspects of water pollution and conservation, and was awarded a second place certificate by the United States EPA for one of the top water-quality projects.
Our Lady of the Presentation School in Lee’s Summit has made the Science Fair part of the fifth grade curriculum. Principal Jodi Briggs said it is a “fantastic way for the fifth grade to learn the scientific method.” Eleven students represented Presentation at the Science Fair this year.
Which Soda Decays Teeth by Olivia Williams won a Gold ribbon. She found that Fanta was the worst because it decayed the teeth most.
In Hydroponics vs. Soil, Josh Welker experimented with growing plants using water only vs. growing plants in soil to learn which would grow best. Josh likes to garden with his mom and wondered if he were to someday live in an apartment or an area without land to grow plants, could he grow high quality plants without soil. He found that the hydroponics actually grew better than the soil plants. Josh’s project won Gold and was the Division winner in the Botany group.
Theresa Scheier wondered about keeping cold drinks cold. In her Gold ribbon project, Icy Insulators, she studied thermal conductivity to determine which type of container would keep drinks coldest for the longest period.
Briggs added that she was impressed by the variety, creativity and detail of the projects.
Visitation School was represented by four projects by 10 fourth, fifth and seventh grade students. Walk your Socks Off, by Clare Davis, 4, Olivia Grego, 4, and Tommy Davis, 7, studied teens walking and found that, on average, males took more steps than females.
Parachute Power, by Alana Rowan, 5, and Annabelle Valenti, 4, investigated how the shape of a parachute affected its flight. They found that a triangle parachute fell the fastest, and a circle shape took the longest to land.
A sailboat experiment studied how sails made of different materials affect the speed of a sailboat. Fifth graders Aiden Lee and Luke Knopke found that when the sail was made of fabric, the boat went the fastest.
Fourth graders Matthew Donnellan, Mac Mullen and Ethan Oliver studied whether the weight of the paper used in constructing a paper airplane affected the distance it flew. In Up, Up, and Away, the paper airplane made from the heaviest paper (sketch paper) traveled the longest distance.