Experimenting with science

Middle school students creating projects for Science Fair set for Feb. 7

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— For Hana Zittel, a simple blue box may prove to be the step up to becoming a future brain researcher.

The seventh-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School began her science project about memory with the object that she showed her fellow students. After the blue box came distinct spices, different volumes of music, certain grades of sand paper and, finally, various amounts of sugar in a sugar-water solution.

On her second day in class, Zittel reintroduced the five sensory objects and took a survey to find which of the five senses people remember with the most.

Her conclusion: People remember the most with their senses of touch and smell.

"I've just always been interested in memory," Zittel, 13, said of the reason she chose the memory experiment for her science fair project.

Zittel said while she seems to change her mind about what she wants to be when she grows up quite often, she is currently leaning toward a brain researcher.

The experiment seemed to complement the goal, she said.

Zittel and 249 other middle school students will compete in a science fair Feb. 7 in the middle school gym.

Contestants will put their projects on display Feb. 6 for the Feb. 7 competition.

Students have chosen and researched certain science topics, experimented with their data and are now in the process of formulating conclusions.

Zittel said Kevin Ford, a seventh-grade science teacher, helped set up the experiment, helped with the idea and procedures and assisted with the materials, but she did most of the work on her own.

Ford said the goal of a science fair is not necessarily the competition but that students get a firm understanding of the scientific method and answer a question that interests them.

However, an experiment cannot be done to show a phenomenon that already exists, Ford said of one requirement.

Testing gravity by using a rock and a feather or showing that the Earth revolves around the sun are invalid experiments for the science fair because it doesn't allow the students to use the scientific method to create something new, Ford said.

"It's truly an experimentation," Ford said. "The individuality is incredible. The variety is incredible."

Creativity, data information and the logic of a science project are the criteria judged by community volunteers.

A maximum of 200 points can be allotted to a student by two judges designated for every project.

Whether one's project is worth a certain colored ribbon for participation or another's is worth the blue ribbon for the best project, all students are recognized for their creativity, Ford said.

When the judges finish, the science teachers gather the evaluations and choose the top three from each grade to receive medals. Students in sixth grade compete with other students in sixth grade, and so on.

"I'm kind of excited, but I don't really care if I win or lose," Zittel said of her first year as a contestant. "There are some really good projects out there and I don't really know how mine compares."

Zittel said a girl with an extra sensory perception experiment and another with a pulse-reading experiment linked to watching certain movies both are "really neat."

Ford said projects include a mechanical device that transports a student's belongings and a remote-control snow plow.

"Right now they're in the stages of asking, 'What does it all mean?'" Ford said. "But I've been mentoring them every step of the way."

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