Students solve the world’s problems, one science fair project at a time
March 30, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Electrifying currents, tornados in two-liter bottles and homemade glue — these and other projects dazzled parents and teachers alike as the Sunset Elementary School science fair unleashed itself with the fury of several baking soda volcanoes March 18 and 19.
For the past several months, students schoolwide have been dreaming up hypotheses, formulating procedures and experimenting.
During the fair, students showed off their work and presented their findings to parents, teachers and judges.
“We have so many complex problems in the world that will require a new generation of scientists to tackle them,” said Larry Reising, a parent and judge. “It is very important early to help develop those young minds and to find those ones that have an interest in science, and introduce them to it and show them how exciting it can be.”
Each student who participated in the evening received a ribbon and a certificate for his or her work. Of the school’s 580 students, more than 300 participated, said Mei Lee, a coordinator for the event. Students whose projects went above and beyond received additional honors.
One project that was eye-catching to many judges was one about what different types of drinks do to your teeth.
Third-graders Lauren Reising and Madison Knopf used teeth from Madison’s dad’s dentistry practice to test what lemon juice, tea and Coca-Cola did to teeth when left in the liquids for five days.
Each day, the girls took photos and recorded their observations. By the end of the five days, the lemon juice had nearly dissolved the teeth, while the tea left them slightly brown and the Coca-Cola left them nearly chocolate colored.
“We really learned not to drink lemon juice, because if you drink it all the time without brushing your teeth, they could end up like this,” Madison said. “But if you brush and floss, you can sometimes have drinks like these.”
Another project that drew the eye of many parents was a consumer investigation by first-grader Alexander Berns.
In his project, Alexander spilled oil, catsup and coffee on white shirts. Then, he used three different products to see which one lifted stains best and what stain was the hardest to get out.
“I got the idea because my mom bought stain removers and they didn’t work,” he said. “So I thought, why not figure out what stain remover works the best.”
Each of the products, including detergent and bleach, did a good job on lifting oil and catsup. But coffee was the tough one.
“Don’t spill coffee,” he said. “It was the hardest to get out.”
But if you do, use Spray ‘n Wash right away and you have a pretty good shot of getting it out, he added.
While some project hypotheses were proven, others were attempted and failed. For instance, first-grader Anna Pucci’s project hypothesized that her homemade glue would be stronger than either Elmer’s Glue or a standard glue stick. Using a baking soda, milk and a few other ingredients, she stirred together her homemade glue and tested it against the others, using sticks and weights.
While her homemade glue was certainly sticky, “it was third best,” she said with a smile. The glue stick was second and Elmer’s proved to be the best.
While she may not have proven her hypothesis, she certainly learned a lot about the scientific process, she said. There was the added bonus of making a mess in the family’s kitchen, too.
Science fairs help “generate interest in our science curriculum,” said Principal Wayne Hamasaki. “It also helps students see that science is a part of everyday life and not just experiments they do in class.”
During the event, students and parents could also look at a variety of professional displays, like the one provided by the Bellevue Stream Team, which had water samples from Marymoor Park that students could look for critters in. After finding insects and amphibians, volunteers would project the creature onto a presentation screen for a closer look and determine whether the water quality was good or bad based on what species they found.
Sam Songio, 2, and his mother, Sophie, were able to find a tadpole that was extremely sensitive to pollution, volunteers said, which meant the water quality of the pond it was taken from was good.
Other presentations were made by King County’s Department of Natural Resources, Puget Sound Energy and the Issaquah High School Robotics team.