Student winners at science fair again amaze judges
By DONNA WINCHESTER
Published February 15, 2004
PINELLAS PARK - Barrett Doyle nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other as the man with the clipboard approached.
The 16-year-old took a deep breath, wiped his sweaty palms on the pants of his best suit and began explaining his science project to the judge.
Once he started talking, he was surprised at how much he knew about the effect of tannic acid on algal growth. The judge's obvious interest in his experiment convinced him it didn't matter that his research had proved his hypothesis incorrect.
Barrett, a junior in the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High, was among 323 middle and high school students who had placed well at school-level competitions and moved on to the 2004 Pinellas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. A team of 70 professionals judged the students' work Feb. 6 at Pinellas ParkSide mall, where the projects were on display through the weekend.
"It was more interesting than I thought it would be," Barrett said after the judge had moved on. "It was a learning experience."
Like Barrett, many of the students who entered this year's fair conducted experiments that produced measurable results. Riasat Ali, a sixth-grader at Azalea Middle School and a Best of Fair winner, compared the severity of chronic pain in males and females. Canterbury School of Florida ninth-grader Madison Kebler documented the effects of aromatherapy, winning a first-place award in the senior medicine and health category.
Several students conducted projects in the theoretical realm. Jeremy Hicks, a Lakewood High School senior, investigated the effect of algorithms on the speed generation of Pascal's triangle.
Brianna Satinoff, a senior at Palm Harbor University High School and another Best of Fair winner, applied abstract algebra to investigate irreducible polynomials, a project she began while attending a summer seminar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Many projects evolved from the students' personal interest in a subject.
Chelsea Meredith, a seventh-grader at Azalea Middle School who has a heart condition, wanted to find out which form of exercise would be most cardiovascularly efficient. She was slightly disappointed to learn that bike riding was more beneficial than ballet.
Largo High School ninth-grader Caitlynn Clausen, whose sister is outfitting her first apartment, launched an experiment to find out if more expensive cookware would perform as well as less expensive brands. She was surprised to find that the less expensive cookware did a better job.
The results of at least one project surprised even the judges. Nora Brody, a ninth-grader at Canterbury School of Florida, created a miniature stage set based on the Let's Make A Deal game show to prove a probability hypothesis.
She placed a "grand prize" behind one curtain and put "gag" prizes behind two others. After her subjects had picked a curtain, she showed them a gag prize behind a different curtain and asked if they wanted to stay with their first choice or switch.
Her hypothesis, which most of her subjects initially disagreed with, was that their odds of winning the grand prize would increase if they switched curtains.
After 100 trials, Nora proved that when the "contestants" stayed with their original choice, they lost more than twice as many times as they won. When they switched their choice, they won about seven times as much as they lost. She wasn't certain if the judges were convinced even after she showed them her data.
Paul Dickman, a teacher at Lakewood High and a co-director for the science fair, said the caliber of student work overall was impressive.
"Every year it gets a little better, particularly in the junior division," he said. "Over the years, we've seen a lot of physics and engineering projects coming from middle school students."
While some science teachers no longer encourage children to participate in the annual regional science and engineering fair, Dickman is among those who will continue to require students to enter projects. Besides exploring a scientific area, the hands-on projects teach young people to think critically and to logically document their findings, he said.
The judges spent a full day reviewing the projects and questioning the students, then retired to a first-floor conference room to choose the winners. They realized they had too many candidates for Best of Fair, and had to go back upstairs to take another look at the projects.
Martha Garcia, who works at Tampa BayWatch and had come to judge projects in the junior botany category, said choosing winners was a tough job. One of the last judges to leave, she praised the students for their originality and presentation and for their ability to defend their projects verbally.
District science supervisor Robert Orlopp will forward 25 projects to the state science fair in Jacksonville, which will be judged April 12-14.
Pinellas Regional Science and Engineering Fair winners
Thirty-one Pinellas County students won first-place awards in the Pinellas Regional Science and Engineering Fair held at Pinellas ParkSide mall Feb. 6-8.
BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE: Christian Verhulst, John Hopkins Middle School, The Effect of Age on Short-term Memory; R. Charlie Bardin, Southside Fundamental Middle School, Ready, Set Go; Joni Gotwald,* Lakewood High School, The Difference of Fears Between Males and Females
BIOCHEMISTRY: Spenser Reed, St. Paul's School, The Comparison Between the Glycemic Load Method and the Carbohydrate Counting Method Used to Calculate the Amount of Insulin Used to Produce Normal Glucose Readings
BOTANY: Victoria Adams,* St. Cecelia School, Long Live the Rose; Stephanie Teal, Lakewood High School, The Effect of Group 2 Elements on Plant Growth
CHEMISTRY: Charlie Ford,* Wellington School, The Variability of Orange pH Due to Temperature; James Britton,* Lakewood High School, The Effect of Mineral Content on the Leidenfrost Effect; Aaron Carlson,* Lakewood High School, Can Optical Brightener Testing Be Used to Test Sewage Runoff Levels in the Feather Sound Area? Tamara Kemp,+* Lakewood High School, What Factors Affect the Reduction of Nitrate in Tampa Bay?
COMPUTER SCIENCE: Lucas Coffin, Canterbury School of Florida, Computerizing Psychrometrics
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE: Tighe Beach, Canterbury School of Florida, How High Will It Fly? The Effect of Surface Friction on Altitude; Matthew Stroh, Lakewood High School, The Effects of a Jetty on Sand Deposition
ENGINEERING: Andrew Pope,* Madeira Beach Middle School, Which Boat Hull Creates the Least Resistance in Water? Thomas Bunbury, Lakewood High School, What is the Effect of Multiple Sensory Input on Robot Navigation?
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE: Sara Sardano, St. Cecelia School, It's Getting Hot in Here; Kenneth Kelly,* Lakewood High School, The Effect of Ultraviolet Light on Marine Algae Such as Chlorella and Euglena
MATHEMATICS: Anna Scalamogna,* St. Cecelia School, Playing the Ponies; Brianna Satinoff,+* Palm Harbor University High School, An Investigation of Irreducible Polynomials Over Zp Using Abstract Algebra
MEDICINE AND HEALTH: Riasat Ali,+* Azalea Middle School, Comparison of the Severity of Chronic Pain in Male and Female Genders; Madison Kebler,* Canterbury School of Florida, Aromatherapy: Medicine or Marketing
MICROBIOLOGY: Sarah Morris, Shorecrest Preparatory School, Hand Soaps: Are There Differences? Amanda Fett, Lakewood High School, Will E. coli Survive and Grow on Sterile Paper Money?
PHYSICS: Greg McCranie,* Espiritu Santo Catholic School, Transmissive Hologram Using a Diode Laser; Destini Bryant, Largo High School, Eating on the Go? Drive Slow, Slow, Slow!
ZOOLOGY: Jack Vasilaros,* St. Paul's School, The Effect of Electric and Electromagnetic Fields on the Behavior of Oscars; Angela Lin,* Palm Harbor University High School, What is the Effect of Tannic Acid on Brine Shrimp?
TEAM PROJECTS: Michael Gulliver and Brandon Huegli, Largo Middle School, What Types of Gases (Butane, Methanol and Hair Spray) Give Off the Most Combustion? Jill Barat and Ashley Black, Lakewood High School, The Effect of Aromatic Scents on Heartbeat
These students won second- and third-place awards:
Azalea Middle School: Thomas Flad.
Bay Point Middle School: Pieter Gorsira, Dylan Sprague,* Niraj Singh, Vincent DeCosmo.
Canterbury School of Florida: Christine Hammerschmidt, Caroline Anderson, Marli Koch, Elizabeth Jensen,* Nora Brody.
Lakewood High School: Amanda Rivieccio, Ravi Rai,* Ashley Beavers, Heather Boyle, Tien-Min Lee, Alyson Ammann,* Keith Jamison, Kira Dever-Jones, Taylor Buley, Richard Williams, Vincent Collie, Kevin Larson, Erin Walsh,* Andrew Sweeney, Tyler Cain, Neeraj Bajaj, Lucas Overby, Zachary Chauhan, Sharleen Teal, Riley Perszyk, Amanda Kluzynski, Jeremy Hicks,* Greg Reese,* Sabrina Feher, Daniel Helm, Sterling Little, Andrew Berger, Roger Hendricks, Chase Finch, Danielle Siniscalchi, Daniel St. Clair, Abbie Harms, Eric Pounders, Jair Franco, Michael Geegan,* Jordan Englert, Vidak Dobrila, Christopher Jenkins, Jennifer Baldwin, Christain Moriarty, Malia Gonczar, Conor McKee.
Largo Middle School: Sara VanGuilder, Jeffrey Sincich,* Thu Dang, Claudia Nassif.
Largo High School: Caitlynn Clausen.
Madeira Beach Middle School: Devin Sudhoff, Matthew Frain, Kevin Jones.