Dozens of middle school students from all over the West Linn-Wilsonville School District gathered together Friday, Feb. 3, for the annual CREST-Jane Goodall Science Symposium Middle School Science Fair. There they shared projects they've spent months preparing with judges, family members and fellow students before an awards ceremony that highlighted the best of the best.
While students were there to win and impress, they were also eager to share their experiences and learn about what others from Inza R. Wood, Rosemont Ridge and Athey Creek Middle School did with their projects.
One such project came from Wood seventh-graders Olivia Osieczanek and Ainsley Mayers, who joined forces in hopes of helping to solve world hunger.
"The problem we looked at is that people from developing nations across the world are starving because of the lack of food, so we thought if we were able to accelerate the growth rate of plants we could potentially help feed more people faster," Mayers said. "We came up with the idea when we started research and discovered caffeine is known to be used as a natural fertilizer. We thought we could use it to accelerate the growth rate of plants."
The pair set up an experiment where one set of plants was grown under natural circumstances while another set was grown using caffeine as fertilizer. They spent two months growing the plants and meticulously collecting data. Ultimately their hypothesis — that the caffeinated plant would grow faster — proved incorrect, but Mayers said she learned a lot about working as a team. She added that she enjoyed the science fair project as a whole and would likely participate in science fair again next year.
"The plant we ended up feeding caffeine actually had its growth stunted," she said. "Overall it was a really good experience and I would say a positive of (working with a partner) was being able to distribute the work evenly. It was nice not having as insane of a workload as people who did projects on their own had."
Mayers said the judging process was a bit scary at first, but got better with each presentation. She said it was a good experience and one she was glad to have gained – at least after it was all over.
"It was nerve-racking because the judges asked a whole bunch of questions that we weren't necessarily unprepared for, but they were different than what we prepared for and hard questions," Mayers said.
Wood's Hezdin Aponte, meanwhile, tried to tackle issues relating to volcanic eruptions. She had hoped to decrease the risk of eruptions by proposing two potential solutions – building a moat around a volcano to divert molten-hot magma into the magma chamber, and a similar idea that involved magma tubes to channel magma far away from civilization.
She said coming up with her idea was the hardest part, and that working alone also meant more work.
"Working alone, I'm a perfectionist, and because I didn't have a lot of time to work on this, the ideas weren't as perfect as I wanted them to be," Aponte said. "I think the hardest part was coming up with the idea and bringing it to life."
She said it was fun to walk around and see the projects that her classmates had created. Aponte said meeting students from Athey Creek and Rosemont Ridge middle schools was fun, and that it also gave her ideas for what she might do next year.
Wood's Lui Blomberg was one of many participants who was part of the science fair for the second time. He designed a one-handed clarinet for his project, an idea he said the idea came to him when he was in band class one day. He realized such a thing didn't exist after doing some research, and that a one-handed clarinet could benefit those with disabilities.
He found one-handed models of simpler instruments like the trumpet, using them as a starting point. He designed a clarinet that theoretically would work if constructed, and built a corresponding key of how to play all the different notes.
While he didn't build a physical model, he said he had fun researching similar one-handed instruments and making it work for the complex clarinet. He said the science fair is always challenging, but that's one of the reasons it's so much fun.
"It was a cool opportunity to combine science and my love of music together," he said. "Toward the end of the design problems came up and I had to keep changing it, but it was worth it in the end."
Many of Friday's presenters will move on to the state competition where their projects will go head-to-head with some of Oregon's brightest young scientists.
SPECIAL AWARD WINNERSBest Logbook — Chanelle Woods, Kate FrechetteBest Use of Statistical Analysis — Leif Severson, Stanley MyletBest Project Board — Ryleigh Freeman, Olivia TrobetskySusan Asher Award — Cian ListerBest Communication of Scientific Concepts — Andrew Van Horn, Dane GuthnerMost Creative Project Idea — Sophia AnikinBest Experimental Design — Ben ScottBest Demonstration of Field Knowledge — Neel JainPromising Young Scientist — Helena Erdahl, Lily GottschlingBest Individual Project — Kullen WhittakerBoone Award — Lily SaundersBest Team Project — Lauren Hurley, Alice KangBest Local Sustainability Project — Chloe Dehlin
CATEGORY AWARD WINNERS
Animal Science & Microbiology — Ann Connell and Athena Abrahamsen, First; Noah Goodman, Second; Leif Severson and Stanley Mylet, Third; Lilly Boehrer and Caserra Fitzke, Honorable Mention
Behavioral and Social Sciences — Haley Budroe, First; Andrew Van Horn and Dane Guthner, Second; Alexis Nord and Robin Brody, Third; Gabby Prusse and Amelia Postma, Honorable Mention
Engineering and Energy, and Computer Sciences — Jonathan Tence, First; Kogen Brown, Second; Kendall Macdonald, Third; Mithun Karthikeyan and Karver Albert-Davis, Honorable Mention
Engineering: Mechanical and Materials — Jack Fillion, First; Lui Blomberg, Second; Olivia Sims, Third; Ben Scott, Honorable Mention
Medicine and Health Sciences — Andrew Worth and Caleb Wilde, First; Samantha Leebrick and Grace Heaton, Second; Angelina Walsh and Amyah Semau, Third; Nathalia Nicolalde and Aubrey Cutler, Honorable Mention
Chemistry, Math and Physics — Kullen Whittaker, First; Jacob Rice, Second; Jesika Conner, Third; Gabrielle Bean, Honorable Mention
Plant and Environmental Sciences — Lauren Hurley and Alice Kang, First; Karah Rhoades, Second; Eric Xia, Third; Chloe Dehlin, Honorable Mention