Science comes alive at annual fair

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Glacier High School physics teacher Todd Robins demonstrates a hydrolysis experiment Tuesday afternoon to a group of students and parents during the Flathead County Science Fair at West Valley School. Robins was part of a team that went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to perform various zero-gravity experiments. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)

From plastic created using milk and vinegar to electricity generated through exercise to methane bioproduction, young minds were abuzz with science Tuesday at West Valley School.

A total of 136 student projects were featured during the Flathead County Science Fair. Tuesday’s displays included grades six through high school. Third- through fifth-grade projects were judged Friday.

Nathan Connell was one of 15 Glacier High School students who helped judge. Along with judging displays, a student’s execution of the scientific method and research papers, Connell said he looked for confidence and how well students explained and understood their research.

West Valley School seventh-grader Christopher Oberling won a grand medal for his study of acidity and water in an experiment titled “Effects of Acidification on a Freshwater Microbial Ecosystem.”

Oberling tested pH levels to see if they affected diversity and quantity of species. He said he became interested in this experiment after learning about acidification of salt water caused by carbon in the air.

“It’s something we’re just beginning to understand,” Oberling said. “I did this [experiment] instead, as an analogy for a freshwater ecosystem affected by something like acid rain building up in the lake.”

Other science projects focused on practical application such as West Valley seventh-grader Brandon Jordan’s experiment, “Penetrating Energy.” As a hunter, Jordan was looking to hunt larger game in a way that wouldn’t injure or cause an animal to suffer. He conducted his experiment by shooting bullets of varying sizes.

“The bullet with the most power — most kinetic energy and penetration — will lead to more ethical hunting,” Jordan said.

Whitefish Christian Academy sixth-grader Maria Frampton’s winning biological experiment, “Caffeine Buzz,” tested the psychology of the placebo affect in 16 classmates.

“I hypothesized that if the test subjects believe they are getting caffeine, that will affect them,” Frampton said. 

She used Diet Coke and non-caffeinated Diet Coke. After test subjects drank the liquids they took typing tests. Frampton concluded that her hypothesis was partially correct. 

What stumped her was a group that was told they were getting a placebo and they were given a placebo, yet their test results increased dramatically. For Frampton, her experiment might not be over.

“Group four skyrocketed and I don’t know why,” Frampton said. “I’d like to research that more.”


Science Fair results

Following are results from the Flathead County Science Fair on Tuesday for sixth grade through high school.

Physical Science

Sixth grade

Grand Medals: Riley Jochim, “Decaffeinated Tea?,” St. Matthew’s School; Chloe Erb, “Coin Battery,” Cayuse Prairie School

Reserve Medals: Ashlyn Cleveland, “Solar Panels Compete,” West Valley School; Kyla Harris, “Supercooled Instant Heat!,” West Valley School

Seventh grade

Grand Medal: Brandon Jordan, “Penetrating Energy,” West Valley School

Reserve Medals: Nicholas Hannay, “Jack It Up,” Evergreen Junior High; John Kelly “Tea for You,” St. Matthew’s School

Eighth grade

Grand Medal: Colin Norick, “The Future of Power,” Deer Park School

Reserve Medal: Sophia Skwarchuk “Does the Melting of Glaciers Affect the Surrounding Air Temperature,” Stillwater Christian School


Biological Science

Sixth grade

Grand Medal: Maria Frampton, “Caffeine Buzz,” Whitefish Christian Academy

Reserve Medal: Annabelle Pukas, “Got Milk? Got Bacteria!,” Somers School

Seventh grade

Grand Medal: Christopher Oberling, “Effects of Acidification on a Freshwater Microbial Ecosystem,” West Valley School

Reserve Medal: Isabelle Sherman, “Death by Oil,” Whitefish Christian Academy

Eighth grade

Grand Medal: Armen Keuylian, “The Effects of Acid Rain on Varying Aquatic Organisms,” Whitefish Christian Academy

Reserve Medal: Elizabeth Stone, “Half Full or Half Empty,” Whitefish Christian Academy

Tenth grade

Grand Medal: Colter Norick, “CH25H The Next Step in HIV Treatment,” Columbia Falls Junior High School

Glacier Institute Award

West Valley School eighth graders Meghan Levanen and Lydia Pavliuk, “Weed Found You.” 

West Valley sixth-grader Sarina Smith, right, shows off her experiment to judges Tuesday afternoon during the Flathead County Science Fair at West Valley School. Smith won a blue ribbon with her experiment testing the effectiveness of producing electricity through exercise. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)

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