While all were distressed over the recent tsunami catastrophe, Kelsey Elsholz of Grantsville High School took her response a step further. She not only asked why it happened, but she and her partner Caitlin Stice designed a way to find out. That effort won them first place in the earth science team category in the regional science fair. Stice and Elsholz also won awards from the Association of Women Geoscientists and the Navy.
That same fascination with discovery coupled with an interest in ancient Egypt led Sarah Denman to study and apply the art of mummification. Her project placed first in the biochemistry category.
Tyler Boegler was intrigued by human nature. The idea for his project came after he and his sister saw a show about people who couldn’t sleep. The people were hooked up to all kinds of equipment to help them, but Boegler and his sister thought if they were attached to that much equipment they wouldn’t be able to sleep either.
That led Boegler to ask, “if people know they are being tested, are they going to react differently?”
Boegler won first place in the human nature category.
In addition, Whitney Goodworth and Felicity Silva, both tenth graders at Grantsville High School, tried to determine if people’s personality type influences the type of dreams they had. Shana Barney, also a sophomore, tested tap water vs. bottled water to determine which really had the most minerals in it. Goodworth and Silva won first in behavioral science for team projects. Barney won first place in earth science and a $50 gift certificate from Chucka- Rama for her emphasis on nutrition.
Several other Tooele students also won special awards and second and third place for their projects at the Regional Science Fair held at the University of Utah March 17.
Holly Arbon and Calli Porter won $50 gift certificates to Staples or Scientific Catalog provided by the Navy and Derrek Long’s project was the only one in the state honored by the Utah Teachers of Mathematics Association with a $50 check. His project explored the math involved in light rays, specifically how they bend when they go through a prism.
In addition, Joseph McClatchy took second in earth science; Holly Arbon took third in chemistry; Degen Hill took second in biochemistry; Alex Burringo took second in botany; and Robyn Krieser took second in behavioral science. Gary Jones took second in computer science and John Fryer took third.
The students, all from Grantsville High School, were the first ever from their school to go on to compete in district competition, let alone regionals.
Grantsville High School science teacher Esther Spencer was the impetus behind getting the students to participate.
“Academics take a kind of back stand; they kind of stand behind athletics,” Spencer said.
“I thought this would be a good way to celebrate kids who succeed in science.”
She points out the coverage the boy’s basketball team got for winning state, but said when kids succeed academically, most people don’t even know.
“I think it’s so valuable to do a science project,” she said. “One of the really good ways to teach is having kids come up with their own science fair project and have to come up with an outcome based on their theory.”
She thinks it was “really successful … we’ve gotten almost all positive feedback from Grantsville High School.”
The kids this year had some interesting projects, which received an unusually large number of prizes at regionals, according to Spencer.
“I let kids go kind of crazy with their questions,” Spencer said.
For instance, one student’s experiment determined what cookie holds up best when dunked in milk.
“I let kids do questions they are interested in, so they kind of learn the scientific method better this year because they’re asking their own question.”
Students ranging in grades from elementary to high school participated and many moved on to higher levels of competition. Many of the experiments required precise inventions, extensive research and working with others. Elsholz and Stice created a tsunami simulator to determine how much energy is required for a tsunami to take place.
“We heard about the recent tsunami in Asia and we wanted to know how much force it would take for a tsunami to destroy that land,” explained Elsholz.
The two found out tsunamis are a series of waves caused by an earthquake, not just one big wave. In Asia, water first receded out a mile from the shoreline then it came toward land with tremendous force.
They created their tsunami simulator using a 3-foot-long tub, 40-50 pounds of sloping sand, three gallons of water and little houses and plants to represent a village. To simulate a tsunami they used a toilet plunger to create pressure.
They created a scientific formula and method for determining force. They also invented a new unit called stelshize as tsunamis are currently measured by the size of the earthquakes that cause them.
“We learned that it takes a lot of force, for example if you put our small steshize simulator in the grand scheme of things it would be millions of stelshizes and that’s just huge. We realized how huge tsunamis actually are and that’s a good thing to learn.”
Denman had always been interested in Egypt and “how their culture works and things like that.”
When she heard she needed to do a project for the science fair, she was just sitting in class and the idea to learn about mummification popped into her head.
In order to understand how mummification slows down the decaying process she went to a web site discussing the mummification of a man in Michigan.
The site had 30 pages explaining the process — step-by-step. She improvised a little and applied what she learned.
“I couldn’t get the stuff because it’s in Egypt — I couldn’t pay to have it shipped over here. I just used what I had,” Denman said.
Therefore, Denman mummified a pickle using vinegar, tea bags, water softener, salt and linen.
While she enjoyed the project, and successfully mummified her pickle, she said it was a lot of work and reading. She had to read the entire Web site, which was 30 pages long.
Goodworth and Silva spent six weeks administering personality tests to individuals. After their personalities were determined, the 15-20 without “night terrors like wetting the bed,” were asked to record a log of their dreams.
Both students plan to become psychologists and wanted to explore how people’s minds work. They chose a sampling of “average” people from their area.
“We put them in their categories to see if they dreamed according to their personality types and we found that they did not, but we found everyone dreamed about their worries,” Goodworth said.
Categories of dreams included religion, death and family.
There were also floating or flying dreams, some about falling, going to the bathroom, bodily malfunctions like “teeth crumbling and falling out,” and a miscellanious category.
The hardest thing may have been finding people who fit clearly in one category.
“Most people are in a couple of them,” Goodworth said. Boegler was also interested in people. He experimented to see if it changed the results of an experiment if people knew he was doing an experiment on them.
“It’s kind of a mouthfull, but that’s what it was,” he explained.
He timed how often people blinked in two minutes, then he’d tell them he was doing an experiment on them and repeat the experiment. He tried the same tactics measuring how often people scratched in two minutes and how often they used certain words when they knew they were being observed.
“I found out it is affected a little bit, but not by a lot,” Boegler said.
He said controlling the variable was the hardest part and reflects good humoredly on the experience.
“I had a good time. It was on the sixth floor of Rice Eccles and my whole family has this thing about heights and that wasn’t funny because I was right next to the window. But, besides that it was all right.”
There were other bits of humor.
“I thought it was funny that it was on St. Patricks’ Day and none of the judges wore green… I kept wanting to pinch them,” Boegler said.
He made another observation about on human nature based on his experience. That was the impact dressing up had on the judges. He was wearing a button down shirt and tie.
“Miss Spencer told us all we had to do this … we all decided to do that, to dress up and impress the judges,” he said. “… I noticed when we did the school science fair [those who dressed up] won first, second or third and those who just wore blue jeans didn’t get anything.”