Hayden senior will represent school at state science fair

Student questions breath tests

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— Hayden High School senior Grace Faucett recently gave beer and shots of gin to three teachers.

But don't worry; it was all in the name of science.

Faucett, who placed first in the school's science fair with her "Breath Tells All?" project, will be the first student in school history to represent Hayden at the state science fair in Fort Collins in April. She was one of eight Hayden students to participate in the regional science fair last week.

Science teacher Mari Mahanna started the science fair at the school when she came to the district four years ago.

This year, about 70 of her students participated in the fair. The top eight projects qualified for the regional competition.

Work on the projects began in October, and Mahanna provided class time to complete much of the work.

And despite the usual moans and groans over having to do a project, Mahanna said the end result is students who know how to do science, not memorize it.

"I want them to get an understanding that science is an action," she said. "It's not memorizing vocabulary. I want them to become scientists."

Listening to Faucett explain her project, it would appear Mahanna's wish is coming true.

The purpose of Faucett's project is to test the accuracy of Breathalyzer tests -- a breath-testing machine used by police to determine blood-alcohol concentration -- by administering substances such as gum and pennies to intoxicated persons to see if these substances alter blood-alcohol concentration.

"Everyone around here always has myths about how you can bring your Breathalyzer readings down," Faucett said. "I was wondering if it really was possible to change them."

Faucett used two procedures for her project. The first procedure had several test subjects ingest various breath-freshening products. After a few minutes, the subjects blew into the Breathalyzer to determine what effect, if any, the products had on their blood-alcohol concentration.

Results showed that Altoids breath mints were the only substances that had any effect, and even that effect was very minimal.

Three teachers drank beer and shots of gin for the second procedure.

Twenty minutes after their last drink, the subjects blew into the Breathalyzer, and their readings were recorded.

Each subject was then given an Altoid, a piece of Winterfresh gum or a penny to put in his or her mouth.

Five minutes later, new BAC readings were taken. Five minutes after these readings, a last round of Breathalyzers were administered.

The varied results of the second procedure weren't conclusive, though for the most part, they did show that the substances had minimal, if any, effects on Breathalyzer readings.

Faucett plans to revise her procedure before the state competition so that it accounts for the body's metabolism of alcohol.

The revised procedure should bolster her results and lend them more credibility, she said.

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