Record number of students compete in regional science fair
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Students from area junior and senior high schools went in droves to the Show Me Center Tuesday to bring their ideas about science in front of the region and a panel of judges for the 56th Annual Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair.
This year's fair had the largest ever number of participants, with 462 students from 33 schools.
Projects were placed on display early Tuesday morning and students stood by in the afternoon as judges made their rounds, viewing projects in 12 categories in the junior high division and in six categories in the senior high division.
Fair committee member and judge Marilyn Peters, a retired junior high science teacher, said the quality of students' projects has improved during the past few years.
"You have good, very good, and some even outstanding," she said. "As a judge, there aren't many projects you can walk by and discount immediately."
Alexis Vandeven, an eighth-grader at Leopold Junior High School, tested the effect of the temperature of a golf ball's core on the distance it would travel. She and her father go to the driving range often and together they came up with the idea. To test their theory that a ball with a hotter core would travel farther, they fashioned a swinging mechanism that used a club and measured the ball's core with an infrared heat thermometer.
Vandeven's classmate Emily Seiler, also in eighth grade, titled her project "Breaking the Tension," and tested the strength of nine bridges made from Popsicle sticks. The bridges took her hours to make, she said. She picked her project's focus from her wish to one day become a civil engineer, she said.
Peters said the main purpose of the fair is to develop students' love of science.
"It's to let them know how much fun it can be -- even if sometimes it does seem hard," she said.
Some students used their own interests -- music, hunting and sports were popular themes. Others brought something from family life, like Leopold eighth-grader Brittany Garland. She and her mother, Jennifer, have been making homemade laundry detergent for several months, so Brittany decided to test the effectiveness of that detergent against popular name-brand detergents on her father's work clothes and other stained items. She said during her assignments she learned what ingredients in the detergents remove stains and that their homemade detergent -- at a cost of two to five cents per load, is definitely a cheaper, but just as effective, alternative to name brands.
During judging, students are asked to explain in their own words how they came up with their ideas, their interest in their category of the competition and what they found during experiments, Peters said.
"It's amazing. They are all very knowledgeable about what they did. You can tell they practiced those talks," she said.
The fair opened to the public for several hours in the afternoon, and a reception and awards ceremony was held for students in the evening.
1313 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO