Questions and answers: Students back up hypotheses with research at science fair

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Students man their stations Tuesday during the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair.

Which chewing gum's flavor lasts the longest?

Is yawning contagious?

Which brand of pizza is greasiest? And which antacid works the best?

Hundreds of students, grades seven to 12, set out to answer these and other questions Tuesday for the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair. Regardless of the subject, each student backed up a hypothesis with hours of research and experiments in preparation for this day.

Abbi Berry and Lauren Choate, juniors from Farmington High School, decided to investigate solar energy.

"We have this great source, and we were wondering how to harness it," Berry said.

They set up four small solar panels and a towering poster display in a corner of the Show Me Center. Berry noted the irony.

"It's like the dark corner," she said of their assigned spot.

She said they collaborated on four science fair projects in the past, most stemming from an interest in engineering. They tackled an earthquake project about the New Madrid fault in seventh grade and a levee project about Hurricane Katrina in eighth grade.

"We always like to do something that relates to real life," Choate said. "It makes it easier to think of projects."

In recent years students have done more projects on environmental topics, said Dr. Chris McGowan, director of the science fair. He said projects on energy and health issues have always been a constant focus.

"They're not trying to solve the world's problems," he said. "They've taken a piece to look at."

Students from 28 schools competed in two divisions. Two winners in the senior division will advance to the International Science and Engineering Fair in May in Reno, Nev.

McGowan and science fair committee members spent the morning darting around to 243 projects, checking to make sure each met the requirements before judging.

Zach Rollet and Joshua Hunt looked relieved after their project was approved.

The seventh-graders from St. Vincent School in Perryville, Mo., explored which light bulbs are more energy-efficient. With outlets and light switches mounted on a board, they measured energy and light levels.

Rollet said he was not so nervous about the judging, scheduled for later in the day.

"It's just the getting-approved part," he said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

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