Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 20, 2013

Young scientists examine the world


EMMA — The investigative team of Gretchen Lewton and Hannah Mast described their descent into the depth of dirt in downtown Topeka. The 12-year-old “scientists” wandered the streets of Topeka with sampling swabs in hand, testing as they walked.

“We were surprised at what was covered with bacteria and what was almost free of bacteria,” said Hannah, pointing to their petri dishes filled with growing bacteria colonies. Out of nine public spots tested, the dirtiest was a metal outdoor railing; the cleanest was their school entry door. Their test subjects ranged from library computers to ATM buttons.

The two girls are a part of the winning team of Westview Elementary School’s top sixth-grade science projects to be entered into the 53rd Annual Northeast Indiana Tri-State Regional Science Fair in Angola. Westview entered three “teams” of two and five individual exhibitors. These winners will compete against sixth graders from four Indiana counties March 15 and 16.

Another team of 12-year-olds, Darin Yutzy and Orley Miller, decided to investigate the comparative strength of egg shells. “We emptied a fresh duck egg and a chicken egg. We put it on a table top, balanced a square of cardboard over it and began adding brass gram weights,” Orley said. The boys discovered although larger than a chicken egg, the duck egg’s shell was weaker. “The average weight of three tests was the chicken eggs held 1,650 grams. The duck eggs smashed under an average of 1,517 grams,” calculated Darin.

The team of Jay Schlabach and Lucas Yoder, both 12, decided to test the trajectory and distance of three balls of differing weight and density when propelled by their hand-made catapult. The Ping-Pong ball, 8 meters, lost to the golf ball, 20 meters, and the spongy rubber ball fell at 18 meters.

Another experiment involved food products.

“My experiment was to find out which fresh fruits worked the best in gelatin and which ones did not work at all,” said Madi Kazmucha. This 12-year-old scientist found that fresh ginger root was the worst and left the gelatin watery. The best of her six choices was fresh apple slices. She also tested strawberries, raspberries, mango and kiwis.

Sticking with the food theme, 13-year-old Kent Yoder experimented with proving how light and moving air will decompose an apple slice faster than dark, still air.

Lauryn Riegsecker, an 11-year-old, combined her favorite activity with scientific theory. She was testing the drag upon a swimmer’s speed through water created by the addition of clothing. While testing she wore a regular swim suit, then shorts and top, and then followed up with long sweat pants and sweat shirt.

“I sunk and could barely move in my sweat outfit,” Lauryn explained.

Standing next to her display featuring a fancy, cut glass bowl next to a beat-up, plastic container, 11 year-old Camille Pushman (the only fifth grade entrant) explained her experiment.

“I wanted to prove whether or not presentation affects taste,” Camille said. “I took Doritos, Ruffles and Chex Party Mix. I put them into the different containers and served them to different people. Although it was the same snack, just in a different container, almost everyone said the snack in the glass bowl tasted like the real thing and thought the plastic container contained an off brand.”

Twelve year-old Shelbi Smith experimented with shooting basketballs with the dominant eye closed and using the non-dominant hand to control the ball. Then she reversed the eye-hand control. She tested 22 samples and her results can be seen at the Tri-State Regional Science Fair at Trine University in mid-March.

According to Trine University rules, this science fair is aimed at motivating young people to undertake extracurricular activities in the form of a science project. Such work provides a learning situation with characteristics not normally duplicated in school work and provides for the development of attributes important to adult success (independence, initiative, creativity). Exhibits are made by students enrolled in any parochial, private, and public schools in the counties of DeKalb, Noble, LaGrange and Steuben.