Inside Science Fair success

By on April 18, 2012

The 59th annual Lancaster County Science Fair was held at the end of March at the North Museum in Lancaster. The three-day event brought together the top 350 student projects from 26 different middle and high schools.

Warwick High School students fared well, bringing home five first place, three second place, five third place and twelve honorable mentions.

The Record Express recently spoke with Laurie Hess, a Science instructor at the high school, about the success of her students.

"Warwick probably won slightly more awards this year than in a typical year. This year’s bunch of projects were excellent," she told us.

We asked her to walk us through the process of creating a science fair project, from inception to the award ceremony, to get an idea of the work done by the students.

Said Hess, "Students begin to work on their projects during the first full week of school in September. First they must select a topic that is currently being investigated by scientists, then they must research that topic and write a research paper. They then design a lab to investigate the topic and carry out the lab to collect data. They then analyze their data, and write a lab report describing their results. Finally they put together a display to tell the story of their labs. There were 85 students in my classes this year who did an independent research project, and 48 went to the Lancaster science fair."

When asked to tell us about some of the most outstanding projects and the bright young minds behind them, Hess told us, "Kelly Striker won first place in chemistry. She did a project about imbedding ibuprofen in thermo liquid crystals for a slow-release medicine. Kelly also won the Grand Champion award at the Warwick science fair."

"Andrew Beck won first place in Earth and Planetary Science. He did a project about the viability of cyanobacteria in Mars-like conditions. He also won first place in Earth Science at the Warwick Science Fair," reported Hess

She went on to say, "Stuart Bellmore won first place in Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering division. Stuart built and tested a photobioreactor to grow algae to be used as biofuels." Stuart also won first place in Engineering at the Warwick Science Fair.

"Amy Wood won first place in energy and Transportation," said Hess. "Amy tested the effectiveness of several agricultural waste materials as a source of biofuels. Taylor Winpenny won first place in Microbiology. Taylor tested the effectiveness of different ratios of silver nanoparticles and titanium dioxide at preventing bacteria growth on surfaces. Taylor also won first place in Microbiology at the Warwick science fair."

We wondered what the atmosphere in the North Museum must have been like for Hess and the kids who submitted projects. "The atmosphere at the NMSEF is intense. There are many great projects there from our schools and other schools as well. I think students have a good understanding of their topics by the time they get to the fair, and they want to talk to the judges and explain the projects to them."

"I think most of the Warwick students should walk away from the fair with a sense of pride at their amazing accomplishments," Hess told the Record Express. "They truly have become an expert on their topics. Many students told me that they felt well-prepared, and could discuss their projects with judges without any trouble. One student said that he talked to judges from the time he got to the fair until judging was over. Non-stop. I think it is a positive experience for the students."

When asked if she felt any of her students might develop a career based on their areas of research, Hess replied, "Definitely. I have heard from many students who have graduated that their professional interest in science began with their science fair project."

The 2012 County Science Fair Grand Champion was Jesse Martin, a senior at Elizabethtown High School. Martin’s project, "High-power, Frictionless Gear Reduction Using Magnetic Repulsion," earned him a spot to travel to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, in May. More WINNERS, page A3

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