Student scientists compete for top honors |

Student scientists compete for top honors

by Caryn Haller

Last year, Gabriel George's soda geyser earned him second-place in the science fair. This year, he's banking on his candle experiment to do even better.

The Jacks Valley Elementary School fifth-grader's project was one of 160 entries in Monday's annual fair.

Gabriel tested if white candles burn slower than colored candles. He tested six, 8-inch long candles, and timed how long it took them to burn down. The red candle burned the fastest in 6.25 minutes. The white candle burned the slowest taking 6.5 minutes.

"What surprised me was the red one was losing and then it came back and passed all the other candles," Gabriel said. "All the other colored candles have dyes which absorb fire so they burn faster."

Other project topics included will Coca-Cola dissolve an object, which clear liquid dissolves mini marshmallows fastest and which soda fizzes more.

"We want to be sure they understand the scientific method. It's the basics of many things they are learning," fair committee member Kathleen Sherbon said. "They learn research and critical thinking. It's good for them to question things."

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School district employee Susan Moore serves as a judge for science fairs whenever possible.

"They are really interesting. I like how the kids are picking things that are obviously interesting to them," she said. "It helps them to know how to be critical thinkers and investigate the world around them. It's fun to see what kind of research they do. Some of them can be very creative."

One of Moore's favorite projects tested how the speed of a skateboard influences how high the rider can ollie.

Sixth-grade scientist Harmony Dearman, 11, brought back the popular 19th Century material Casein plastic when she tested the best recipe for turning milk into plastic.

"It was a popular plastic before they started manufacturing different plastics," she said. "The U.K. stopped making plastic like this in 1990."

Harmony heated milk to 140 degrees and added vinegar to it one cup at a time. The curds from the milk form plastic when cooled.

Harmony's hypothesis, that eight cups of vinegar would make the best plastic, turned out to be correct.

"I thought that since it had the most vinegar, the reaction would be more," Harmony said of her results. "I enjoyed seeing the chemical reaction, and how some kitchen ingredients could make plastic."

The top seven entries will compete in Reno at a regional competition in March.

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