130 experiment entries in this year’s Citywide Science Fair sponsored by Chamber of Commerce

Published in the February 4-17, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Satyen Patel,  an eighth-grade student at Britton Middle School, is coached by Corey Baldyga, an Oakwood School ninth grader, on maneuvering his home-built hovercraft. Photo by Marty Cheek

Satyen Patel, an eighth-grade student at Britton Middle School, is coached by Corey Baldyga, an Oakwood School ninth grader, on maneuvering his home-built hovercraft. Photo by Marty Cheek

Morgan Hill loves science. And it didn’t take an Albert Einstein to come to that conclusion at the Oakwood School gym Jan. 15 as science-minded students from local middle and high schools showed off their various experiments at the fifth annual Citywide Science Fair sponsored by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Among the 130 student entries was one from Oakwood School 10th grader Nathan Walker who demonstrated his experiment “The Effect of Moisture on the Tunneling of Worms.” His biology experiment had worms dig holes in a jar of dry soil as well as another jar in wet soil to test the difference between the two conditions.

“The wet dirt collapsed more than the dry dirt,” Walker said, describing what his results concluded. “The moister dirt might be easier to go through but it collapses more.”

Participating in this year’s science fair was fun for Walker who enjoyed viewing other student entries and learning from them, he said.

Morgan Hill Unified School District students entered their experiments in one of four categories: physics and engineering, chemistry, biological science and behavioral science. Awards were divided into first, second, and third places for middle school and high school students so a total of 24 entries received a prize.

Coming in first place for the high school chemistry category was Oakwood student Eva DeVries who did an experiment testing if ferrofluid (a magnetic liquid) forms peaks. It was harder for her to find an idea for an experiment than to actually do the experiment, she said.

“Me and my dad were pitching ideas and he thought it was a terrible idea but I thought it was a great idea and that’s how it came about,” she said.

Oakwood sophomore Niki Wolf stands in front of her project that took first place in the behavioral studies category that determined genuine smiles come from their eyes rather than their mouths. Photo by Marty Cheek

Oakwood sophomore Niki Wolf stands in front of her project that took first place in the behavioral studies category that determined genuine smiles come from their eyes rather than their mouths. Photo by Marty Cheek

Eva’s sister, Oakwood senior Roos DeVries, also came in first in physics/engineering with her experiment on “The Development of Straight Line Linkages” studying two-dimensional mechanisms.

“Science fairs bring pride to Morgan Hill,” Roos said. “We’re a small town and often you only hear about the Intel Science Fair and big science fairs like that one. For people who just want to have fun with science, this is a nice event.”

Britton Middle School eighth-grader Haley Young tested the effectiveness of various disinfecting wipes in killing bacteria. The best anti-bacterial wipe was from Lysol and the best baby wipe was Pampers, she discovered. Clorox and Walmart brand wipes did not kill as many germs.

“It was a lot of fun. We got to do experiments and see what we can discover on our own,” she said. “I love science because there are so many interesting things that you need to learn. And there are so many more things that you can discover.”

Young is in Britton’s Volcano Kids Club which is now fundraising for a trip this spring to Hawaii to discover the science of volcanic activity as well as learn about marine biology such as swimming with manta rays. The science fair helped her better understand the scientific method, she said.

Samuel Van Rhign, an eighth-grade student at Britton Middle School, takes a spin on a home-built hovercraft made as a science fair entry by Corey Baldyga, a ninth-grade student at Oakwood School. This year’s fifth annual science fair for all Morgan Hill middle school and high school students brought in 130 experiment exhibits. Photo by Marty Cheek

Samuel Van Rhign, an eighth-grade student at Britton Middle School, takes a spin on a home-built hovercraft made as a science fair entry by Corey Baldyga, a ninth-grade student at Oakwood School. This year’s fifth annual science fair for all Morgan Hill middle school and high school students brought in 130 experiment exhibits. Photo by Marty Cheek

“We have to choose a topic and then we have to come up with a hypothesis,” she said. “A hypothesis is an educated guess about what will happen. And then we would do an experiment to see if our hypothesis is correct or not. We would gather data and then come to a conclusion about our experiment.”

Morgan Hill City Councilwoman Marilyn Librers served as the co-chair of the science fair with Morgan Hill Life Publisher Marty Cheek. A total of 130 entries from students from Martin Murphy and Britton middle schools as well as Oakwood School’s middle school and high school were in this year’s fair. The first fair, which was sponsored by the Pauchon Research Foundation where Librers is executive director, had a total of 18 student entries. No entries in this year’s fair came from Live Oak, Sobrato or Central high schools, she said.

“The students are excited and the teachers are excited and it’s now turning into an annual official event that everyone looks forward to,” she said.

Librers has been actively involved with the science fair for all five years because she believes it gives students an opportunity to compete in various scientific experiments and hopefully stimulate a life-long interest in science as well as possibly a career. Learning about science with actual hands-on experimentation methods can be more interesting than simply reading about science in a book, she said.

“I feel that as a nation, we’re falling behind in the science and math area compared to other countries. Unless we start to encourage students at a younger age about the importance of the sciences, we as a nation are going to fall behind,” she said. “With a little competition and the support of the parents and teachers, we can get students excited about science. I’m personally involved because I think it’s important to encourage students to get the exposure to science in any way, whether it be biology or chemistry, or physics or behavioral science.”

The science fair received local community support from companies and businesses including Anritsu, BookSmart, Heritage Bank, Morgan Hill Life, Recology, and Thinker Toys that provided funds for the prizes as well as other items.

Heritage Bank’s Senior Vice President Jeff Perkins visited the science fair during the hours open to the public and was impressed by many of the experiments the students entered.

“Anything that can reward the kids of the community and their efforts is important to any business,” he said. “We see the value in it. The results of what they worked on is incredible. I learned a lot just walking around and talking to some of the kids today. They explained their experiments and I found them amazing.”

Glen Webb, principal at Britton, said the science fair gives students an opportunity to present their experiment exhibits and learn communication skills as they talk about what they discovered to judges and members of the public.

“This is all about project learning,” he said. “This is where they get to have their own creative input into what they’re doing. They get to choose a topic. They can follow their nose and conduct the research and see the results of their final project.”

The Chamber of Commerce took over the science fair sponsorship from the Pauchon Foundation two years ago because it believes that encouraging young people to consider careers in science research and technology development helps economic development in the future, said John Horner, president and CEO of the Chamber.

“This event is a terrific opportunity for the business community to support and encourage the next generation of thinkers and doers,” he said. “I am passionate about the need for better scientific literacy in our society, and encouraging our youth to participate through their projects not only improves their scientific literacy, but may well have a positive effect on their friends and families as well.”

SCIENCE FAIR WINNERS

High School
Behavioral Science
1st Prize – Niki Wolf
2nd Prize – Akanska Ravishanker
3rd Prize – Caitlin Royston

Physics & Engineering
1st Prize – Shoba Varma & Roos DeVries
2nd Prize – Talia Hill
3rd Prize – Jaypreet Phanota

Chemistry
1st Prize – Eva DeVries
2nd Prize – Marie Verberckmoes
3rd Prize – Nivvy Balakhmar

Biology
1st Prize – Brenden Park
2nd Prize – Nathan Walker
3rd Prize – Cailey Anderson

Middle School
Behavioral Sciences
1st Prize – Dylan Gallipeo
2nd Prize – Alyssa Tran & Ashley Chau
3rd Prize – Leann Gile & Ashley Balbo

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Physics & Engineering
1st Prize – Adrian Badillo
2nd Prize – Nikhita Gopisetty
3rd Prize – Hayden Byers & Geoffrey Johnson

Chemistry
1st Prize – Katin Lemieux
2nd Prize – Shrayen Patel & Satyen Patel
3rd Prize – Kati Hubbs & Ana Figueroa

Biology
1st Prize – Shannon Coakley
2nd Prize – Holly Rottenborn
3rd Prize – Emily Pember

Note: 1st prize high school $100, and middle school $50; 2nd prize high school $25 gift certificate from both BookSmart & Thinker Toys, and 2nd prize middle school $25 gift certificate from BookSmart; 3rd prize high school $25 gift certificate from BookSmart, and 3rd prize middle school $15 gift certificate from BookSmart.