A fair amount of experimenting

More than 100 eighth-graders take part in optional science event

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Taking the prize

All Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-graders are required to produce a long-term science project and give an oral presentation on their findings. An eighth-grade science fair is provided for those students who want to compete for prizes and awards. Judging was held Tuesday.

The Gold Medal and $50 was awarded to Kayleigh Esswein for her project on electrical conductivity through different temperatures of water. The Silver Medal and $30 was given to Kayla Stack for her technical project about the gait and speed of dogs. Bronze Medals and $20 were given to Brandon Marr and Michael Savory. Marr's project was about cell phone use and reaction time, and Savory did a presentation on slope versus speed.

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Dan Birch, an employee of the Colorado River District moonlighting as a science fair judge, speaks with Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-grader Connor Hagerty on Wednesday. Hagerty's project explored the effects of different types of music on individuals' walking speeds.

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Justine Henderson, center, explains her science fair entry to Vanessa Hoff, the eighth-grade science teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday. Henderson's project tested the conductivity of several different ionic solutions.

— Eighth-graders at Steamboat Springs Middle School aren't much different than eighth-graders anywhere else in the country. Many of the boys think they are better than the girls at most things, and the girls disagree. Such a difference of opinion was the reason behind Rachel Dobell's science fair project, "Who Has Quicker Reflexes, Boys or Girls?"

"I wanted to see which gender had better reflexes because our class always argues about this stuff," Rachel said.

By using the scientific method, which starts with a hypothesis and includes data gathering and data analysis before formulating a conclusion, Rachel found the answer to her question.

"Guys do have quicker reflexes - by about 3 inches," Rachel said.

To conduct her experiment, Rachel gathered 10 girls and 10 boys of the same age and had each hold his or her arm in a certain way to catch a dropped ruler. Rachel then measured how much of the ruler had passed through the participant's hand before he or she caught it.

She took her data, analyzed it and created a graph to display her findings.

Not all of the 106 students who participated in this year's optional science fair proved their hypotheses, but all of them were eligible to win prizes, and all received extra credit for taking part.

The science fair was only open to eighth-graders.

Middle school science teacher Brad Kindred was pleased with the level of participation and the quality of many of the projects, which were on display last week for judging and sharing.

This year, the eighth-graders learned how to make graphs and charts using Microsoft Excel, and they then integrated the technology into their projects, which also pleased Kindred.

Between Hayley Brookshire's mission to find which middle school surface contained the most bacteria - she thought it would be lunch tables and it ended up being the water fountain - and Joanie Bier's experiment about the accuracy of horoscopes, the eighth-graders covered a variety of topics and interests.

Joanie said she was struggling to think of a topic when a conversation between her and Kindred about accuracy led her to the stars.

"I do like reading my horoscope," she said.

Joanie wondered if the personality characteristics supposedly associated with three astrological signs - Libra, Taurus and Sagittarius - were accurate.

Her personality tests of nine subjects - three people from each zodiac group - resulted in negative results.

"The highest score was a 65 percent," Joanie said. "The lowest was 15 percent, but mostly they were in between there."

Science fair participants are encouraged to take a topic of personal interest to them and create a scientific experiment from it, which explained why there were several displays related to skiing, snowboarding and hockey, as well as experiments with animals and the environment.

Kindred said the winner of the eighth-grade science fair is eligible to compete at the state science fair March 23 in Grand Junction. During the time between last week's local display and the state competition, the students can add to or modify their projects, but they cannot change their topic.

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