Winning formulas = O2 and H2O

Winners at the county's school science fair deal with basic elements in complex experiments.

Published February 14, 2007

TAMPA - What projects won the Hillsborough County Regional Science & Engineering Fair?

The Science for Dummies answer: air and water.

Therein one finds two complex ideas by Robert Parrish, a Chamberlain High School senior, and Jasmine Roberts, an eighth-grader at Benito Middle School.

The Tampa students received top honors Tuesday night at the University of South Florida Sun Dome.

This year's win is Roberts' second in a row.

Last year, she tested and compared bacteria in ice and toilet water at fast food restaurants. Her discovery that ice was dirtier brought national attention from shows such as Good Morning America, CBS' The Early Show, Tonight Show with Jay Leno and others.

Call this year, a variation on a theme.

Roberts tested bacteria levels in water from public dispensing machines, those units people use to refill water jugs.

She found "startling levels of bacteria growth" that "could be harmful to people with weak immune systems," she wrote in her abstract.

Parrish's project is one that was years in the making, said his former honors physics teacher, Harry Welsch.

Parrish developed a computer application to accurately predict the flow of air around objects. His finding could make actual wind tunnels an obsolete method of testing aeronautical devices, he wrote in his findings.

"The mathematics involved in this is just about beyond everybody but him and three other professors at USF," said Welsch.

And the title of Parrish's project is a bit of a brain buster, too: "The Development of a Localized Finite Differencing Computational Fluid Dynamics Program."

As the senior division winner, Parrish will receive a $1,000 scholarship to USF.

Next stop for Parrish and Roberts is the state science fair in April at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.

Amber Mobley can be reached at amobley@sptimes.com or 813 269-5311.