Science fair makes a return to St. Francis

Sam Odrowski

After a 10-year hiatus, a science fair has returned to St. Francis School.

About 20 students participated last Wednesday, with projects covering all of the sciences from chemistry to biology to physics.

“I hope that the students kind of learn from each other about the variety that’s available in science . . . and I’m hoping this triggers a greater interest in science fair next year,” noted event organizer Angela Saciuk.

Overall, she said the students were really engaged with their projects because participation in the fair was completely voluntary.

“I’m just really happy to have this many [participants] and some really, really strong ones,” Saciuk lauded.

“For the first year, I wasn’t sure what we were going to get and I’m very, very happy with what we got.”

Saciuk said she found having this year’s science fair as a voluntary one worked well for mixing the students together.

“It lent itself to some interesting situations where I had siblings and I had cross-grade individuals partner up whereas if they had been stuck to a class, there would have been less of that,” she noted.

Fair judge Merv Ahrens, a former elementary school science teacher, said he saw a lot of great projects and is glad to see the science fair return to St. Francis.

“I’m going to say that there’s a lot of kids that will join in next year just based on their successes this year,” he remarked.

For the Junior Division (Grades 4-6), Madelyn Dent received first place for her project on growing crystals inside of egg shells.

Izzy and Aubery Meeks garnered second place for their project, which looked at how different types of sugar affect rock candy.

And Willem Bertens-Kirk and Lynden Peters took third for their project that focused on how plant growth is affected by what it hears.

In the Intermediate Division (Grades 7-8), Liam Dent received first place for his project on prosthetics that analyzed which muscle group puts out the strongest electromyography signal when flexed.

Second place went to Marie-Mai Langevin and Samantha Halliday, who did their project on how effective solar ovens are.

Dent, Langevin, and Halliday now have the opportunity to compete in the regional science fair at Fort High this Saturday (March 30) from noon-1 p.m.

Referring to Liam Dent’s project, Ahrens said he has an amazing grasp on prosthetics, outputting electrical signals, and measuring them.

He also really enjoyed Langevin and Halliday’s project, which found that solar ovens can be a more environmentally-friendly alternative to gas-powered ones.

“Normal ovens produce something called carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide is bad for the ozone layer,” Langevin noted.

“So we decided to do our project on solar ovens because this can minimize the effect on the environment.”

She and Halliday were trying to think of ways that they can help the planet and solar energy is what came to their minds.

Langevin has chickens at home so they used a heat lamp to act as the sun to produce solar energy for their project.

“I learned that there’s over 100 different chemical compounds that is created by a stove and that by using a solar oven, it can minimize the effect,” she reiterated.

Langevin and Halliday also learned through their project that the biggest solar oven is found in Asia–and it can feed 15,000 people each day.

As well, Ahrens enjoyed Bertens-Kirk and Peters’ project about plant growth, noting the premise behind the project was quite thoughtful and their findings were unique.

“They concluded don’t talk to your plants so that was kind of interesting,” he remarked.

“Even though the folklore has it that talking to your plants is a good thing, they concluded otherwise.”

Peters said their original hypothesis was that plants who hear positive phrases will grow the most, the neutral plant that doesn’t hear anything will grow second-best, and the plant hearing negative phrases will grow the least.

In the end, the neutral plant grew more than the positive one, so Peters said their conclusion was “Don’t bother your plants.”

Olivia Allen and Sydney Kellar, meanwhile, did their project on whether they could make an all-natural cleaner that is cost -effective, works just as well as over-the-counter products, and is environmentally-friendly for both people and pets.

The cleaning solution they made consisted of oranges, lemon, rosemary, vinegar, and water.

“It removes grease, doesn’t leave anything leftover, doesn’t leave streaks, and doesn’t leave any of the product left on the surface,” noted Allen.

Ahrens said the project was very well-demonstrated.

He had the students put grease on a mirror and used the all-natural cleaner versus cleaning it without and discovered the cleaner to be way more effective.

Allen said they got the idea after her mom cleaned the floors and her pets were licking the leftover residue.

She wondered if there was a different cleaner they could use that would be equally effective, chemical free, and not harmful to animals.

“We learned that we can make an environmentally -friendly one instead of having toxic things for pets and people,” Allen remarked

“We also found our product was a lot cheaper than most store-bought products.”

Ahrens said the students told him they’re thinking of setting up a “Lemony Goodness” cleaning stand as a summer job once school gets out.

He added he was happy to judge the science fair and hopes it will help promote an interest in the sciences among students who participated and observed others’ projects.

Ahrens also hopes students learned about the scientific method and the variety of applications it can be used in.

Saciuk, meanwhile, plans to have the science fair return next year and hopes this year’s sparks interest among other students.