Hands-on fair allows science to become interactive

First Posted: 12/19/2008

Community members, parents and students had the opportunity to see what Mount Airy High School science students have been up to at their hands-on science fair Thursday night.
The students set up displays for their projects in the old junior high gymnasium from 4-7 p.m., inviting spectators to try out their hypotheses. Projects ranging from a mixture of cornstarch and water to color blindness to testing if a person can hover in the air for one second invited people to try science for themselves.
One of the most visited tables was set up by Lauren Glass, Cynthia Wood and Megan Martin. They combined cornstarch and water in a plastic container, creating a substance that was neither completely liquid nor completely solid. Instead, it took on the properties of both states. People were invited to hit the surface of the substance, which proved impenetrable when attacked with force. However, simply using a finger would allow the persons hand to completely submerge.
Another popular table involved a demonstration involving a hard-boiled egg, a glass bottle and matches. Charlotte Refvem, Abby Bledsoe and Alex Ilyasov demonstrated an ability to suck the egg into the bottle by first using a lit match to deplete the oxygen supply in the bottle.
Its just really fun and its not too complicated, said Refvem.
Bryce Pilcher chose to do a project on high speed photography, using a regular camera to take pictures of a balloon at the moment it pops, a firecracker as it is going off and a tennis ball at the moment it is struck by a racket. He used a sound sensitive device to trigger the cameras flash so as to capture the event at the correct moment.
Nathan Vaughn and Trey Bennet built a simulation of a hydroelectric dam to determine whether electricity produced by a dam or electricity from fossil fuels was more efficient.
Timothy Thomas attracted a number of questions about his project, which dealt with color blindness and its prevalence, specifically at Mount Airy High School.
I am colorblind, he said. Thats what really sparked my interest. Nobody really knows their colorblind until theyre up in years, around 5 or 6 years old.
Rachel Harris and Michael Dinkins took a more edible approach to their project, having spectators make their own cells using sugar cookies. They provided icing and other candies to represent the different parts of the cell, using sprinkles for ribosomes and a mint for the lysosomes. They hope that their project will provide an easier way for students to remember the parts of the cell if they correspond to a piece of candy on a cookie.
Will Smith and Zane Shockley took a different approach on the classic erupting volcano. They used red food coloring to make the lava and added a fog machine to simulate the ash cloud caused by an eruption.
We thought itd be cool to have a volcano, and we have a fog machine, said Smith.
Matthew Sheltons project was not as hands-on as others, but provided an inside look into a field he hopes to go into in the future. With ambitions of joining the military upon graduation, Shelton did his project on chemical warfare and the effects of five gases often associated with it. He did research using military documents he found online to determine which of the five were the most used and which were the most fatal. He determined that cyanage chloride, Lewisite and Hydrogen Cyanide are the most dangerous.
Im more of a guy for military stuff, he said. I want to go into the Army or Air Force and wanted to know more about what I could be dealing with.
Regardless of their project, most participants in the science fair agreed that it was a good experience and the fact that it was hands-on was good for the community.
Theyre good for a couple reasons, said Shelton. One, to learn and see what everyone else has learned. It also allows us to be better prepared for college and eventually leading to a job.
Its a good opportunity for the community to see what the students are doing, said Dinkins.
I like them, said Refvem of science fairs. Its good to do research on different subjects, and its good to know the different aspects of science.
This is the second year the high school has involved the community in its science fair. Last year, they created a model of a human body which spectators could walk through with students explaining the different systems.
I wanted to have it like an open house, said Trish Walker, biology teacher. Its the first time many of them have done research all the way through. Most of my students are sophomores now so I want this to help them with their senior projects.
The projects will be judged and the winners will go on to the regional science fair in Wilkes County in February. There is also a research paper competition at the North Carolina School of Science and Math which those choosing to write a research paper can enter.
Contact Morgan Wall at mwall@s24476.p831.sites.pressdns.com or 719-1929.

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