Science & Engineering Fair Ignites Passion for Discovery
Have you ever had a burning question haunt your every waking moment? That question can act as a lens, amplifying details, organizing and focusing your thoughts, as you search for the answer. Can we harvest fog to produce pure water? Could decaying kelp be one of the sources of elevated bacteria that causes beach closings? Will boys or girls be more likely to tell a secret to help their friends win a prize? If you think you know the answer, how will you prove it?
The Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair program, sponsored by Seagate Technology, celebrated its 21st annual Science & Engineering Fair on March 17, 2007. With 342 student participants and 126 judges and volunteers, the event held at the Civic Auditorium has become a wonderful opportunity to celebrate research and discovery and honor the commitment of excellence that is shared by our local students, scientists, educators, & engineers. The Science & Engineering Fair program provides support for young explorers and budding scientists as they follow the thread of their questions. Utilizing the scientific method to investigate and gather facts, science teachers, fair coordinators, mentors, students, and families all collaborate in this adventure which culminates in the county Science & Engineering Fair event.
A student investigator starts with an idea (hypothesis). The idea points to a direction of action. They travel down that path, doing research, and then bits of new information come to light which may force them to look at their assumptions and adjust the approach they are taking (methodology). Along the research path come twists and turns, roadblocks, and sometimes even dead ends. If what they thought was going to happen doesn’t, the experimentation process itself still generates insights and new, sometimes difficult, questions appear. As the path unfolds, it leads to discoveries. When the student scientist finds something that can be replicated and therefore built upon, it adds to existing collective scientific knowledge.
Science & Engineering Fair brings “research” and “fun” together. It is very exciting for students to connect deeply with a subject and go for it with everything they’ve got. During their research process, they may acquire mentors who help students work through the obstacles along the way, and get to the “aha” or “I get it” moment. Satisfaction, joy, passion—a foundation for lifelong learning—opens doors and can take students to places they never imagined. A mentor can also make real and immediate a career that seemed obscure or out of reach.
The excitement of discovery also extends to the judges who see the potential and value in the focus and explorations that students are following. This year, the experimentation culminated in enthusiastic discussions by 122 scientists, engineers, educators, and members of think tank technologies who lent their expertise to help judge the science projects. They “oohed and ahhed” over breakthrough thinking by the students of Santa Cruz County. The most difficult task for judges was choosing only four winners in each category. The caliber of research in the different categories this year was so high that judges also needed to determine early on whether they should advocate for their own subject project winners to be overall science fair winners. Each division contained so many good projects that judges found themselves enthusiastically representing work outside their area of expertise. They were excited and enthused about the high level of discovery in each of the divisions—making their job of having to select overall winners almost impossible.
Judges advocated for student projects right up until the doors opened to the public at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. Most judges also stayed after completion of their individual tasks to hear the other scientists and engineers discuss projects they found especially exciting. A professional dialogue resulted that has now sparked science teachers and scientists to continue their collaboration outside the science fair, which is one of this year’s exciting results.
Some of the student’s findings:
“My results strongly suggest that tea is a good source of antioxidants which provide protection against the various reactive oxygen species responsible for cell damage.”
Shamik Masharak, Grade 8
Hypothesis – Older kids will be more likely to tell a secret to help their friends win a prize. Girls will more likely tell the secret than boys.
Results – “Younger students (especially 6 and 7 year olds) were most likely to tell the secret. Boys, not girls, were most likely to tell.”
Anya Barca-Hall, Grade 5
What is heating the rings around Saturn? Our students hypothesized that three heat sources were likely – the Sun, Saturn, and friction between the ring particles. After developing a software program, analyzing data, and receiving assistance from an astrophysicist and NASA, they learned that friction played a major role but ultimately “the sun was still the major source of energy and Saturn had nearly no noticeable affect on the temperature of the rings.”
Christopher Souvey, Grade 10 and Micah Wylde, Grade 11
“I was able to prove that the equation: (2L(n) + L(n-3))/5 = F(n) was true. I showed it numerically in a chart with the Fibonacci and Lucas series in it.”
Nathaniel Willy, Grade 7
“My project is to design and simulate a fog catcher that will demonstrate how areas where fog occurs naturally can harvest fog to produce pure water.” This student successfully tested three products and used a process called “biomimetric technology” to create an effective fog catcher.
Gregory Evans, Grade 5
“Biological Hydrogen production could be an alternate energy source to petrochemicals.” This three-year study is producing some very exciting results.
Taras Dreszer, Grade 9
“My data did not support my hypothesis that gray water will kill plants. All the plants (in this experiment) grew at a comparable rate. I think that water containing a large amount of detergents may affect plant growth, but the amount of detergents in a typical household does not appear to hurt the plants.”
Greg Cloud, Grade 6
“Beach Closings, Is it the Kelp?” This student collected samples and studied a theory that decaying kelp could be one of the sources of elevated fecal indicator bacteria that has caused posted swimming advisories at Cowell Beach. “Thus far, not enough data has been collected to make any definitive conclusions.”
Rachel Abramson, Grade 12
“Cheddar cheese does mold sooner than American cheese. American cheese would be a good choice for places that may not have refrigeration: camping, lunch boxes without ice packs, and countries that may not have refrigeration or ice.”
Joshua Andersen and John Ross, Grade 3
“ I now fully understand Bernoulli’s principle, and I know how to make a ball float a great deal higher in an air stream.” Replication and precise methodology impressed our judges.
Natalie Dean, Grade 7
Science & Engineering Fair Divisions and Categories
Students, individually or as part of a team, competed in four divisions, each having fourteen competitive categories, at this year’s Santa Cruz Science & Engineering Fair. The Senior (Grades 9-12), Junior (Grades 6-8), Elementary (Grades 4 & 5) and Primary (Grades K-3) Divisions were subdivided into subject area categories: Behavioral & Social Sciences, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Microbiology, Physics, Space Science, and Zoology.
One hundred and seventy-five students were honored at the Science & Engineering Fair Awards Ceremony on March 26, 2007. Awards were presented to the top four (4) projects in every category and division. Judges also awarded cash prizes, special gifts, and Certificates of Recognition for a wide variety of special projects.
Overall Winners 2007
1st - “Can You Keep a Secret?” - Anya Barca-Hall
2nd – “It Came From Outer Space!” - Jaimie Ferrell
1st – “Double the Dimple” - Natalie Dean
2nd - “Fibonacci Numbers” - Nathaniel Willy
1st - “Heating the Rings Around Saturn” - Micah Wylde and Christopher Souvey
2nd - “Water Quality in Boulder Creek” - Caitlyn Christensen and Adam Fedak
International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)
Three winners in the Senior Division were presented with a Special Award and will attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), May 13-19, in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the California State Science & Engineering Fair on May 22-21, in Los Angeles.
Intel ISEF Winners
San Lorenzo Valley High School
“Fecal Coliform Monitoring” - Microbiology
Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School
“Heat to Hydrogen” - Environmental Science
Micah Wylde & Christopher Souvey
Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School
“Heating the Rings Around Saturn” - Space Science
The following Special Awards were presented:
- Seagate Technology Grand Awards
- IEEE Awards
- Association for Women Geoscientists: Geoscience Excellence Awards
- Naval Research Operations Achievement Awards
- US Air Force Achievement Awards
- Plantronics Special Awards
- Outstanding Young Scientist Award
- Professional and Technical Consultants Association (PATCA) Award
- Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year
This year the outstanding science teacher award went to Mr. Darrell Steely. Mr. Steely teaches science at Pacific Collegiate Charter School. Nominated by his students, he is highly regarded throughout the county for his support of the science fair and helping students from all schools with their science project questions and inquiry. “Inspirational, dedicated, and fun” are just a few of the adjectives used to describe this special teacher.
Thank you to Connie Benton for the wonderful photographs.
Please visit the Winners Lists to view specific student Science & Engineering Fair 2007 Winners.
Science & Engineering Fair 2006 News