LUDLOW, Vt. – The Science Fair is a long-standing tradition at Black River High School, and this year’s featured projects on acid rain, exploding candy, and melting ice on roads.
The students enrolled in Physical Science or Lab Biology classes created their own Research Individual Investigation Projects (RIIP) and presented them recently.
To create these projects, students utilized the scientific method to define and research a problem or question, collected and interpreted their data, and based their conclusions on scientific reasoning and evidence.
Students began these projects in September by posing a question. They developed hypotheses, procedures, and their own conclusions. Heather Miele is the science teacher at Black River.
“The purpose of doing the Science Fair is for students to participate in authentic research projects,” she said. “Students take ownership of their own learning as they become ‘experts’ on their subject.”
Michael Metz, another science teacher at Black River, explained the process. “It’s a good experience for students because it incorporates not only science, but also research, writing, and mathematics,” he said. “With the shift to proficiency-based learning, RIIP will continue to provide students with hands-on, project-based learning opportunities.”
Of more than 30 students who created Research Individual Investigation Projects, several chose to share their projects beyond their required presentations, regarding everything from soda and Mentos to pendulum bobs to the effects of the catalase enzyme.
Thaisyn Hersey chose to investigate the effects of acid rain on green bean plants. She measured their height and appearance after watering them with liquids with a pH of 3, 5, and 7.
Her hypothesis was correct, and she was able to conclude that increasing acidity decreases plant growth. Over the course of the experiment, Hersey had to restart plants that died within a day or two so she always kept some germinated seeds to replace plants that died. In the future, she’d like to test different species of plants and improve her precision to minimize human errors. Hersey found that this study could be applied to other experiments that would genetically select for plants within a species with a resistance to acid rain.
Ryan Boyle studied the inhibition of bacterial growth, testing the effects of hand soap, antibacterial hand soap, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and bleach. He hypothesized that bleach would be the most effective because of the chlorine, but anti-bacterial hand soap inhibited bacterial growth the most. By measuring the zone of inhibition, Boyle was able to compare the effectiveness of these antibacterial agents after growing the bacteria on agar in an incubator and placing a substance-covered wafer on the surface. He concluded that antibacterial hand soap would be the best and bleach would be the next best, but because of its harmful chemicals, vinegar would be a better natural solution.
Paige Kelley tested the explosiveness of soda and Mentos candy. She wanted to determine if flavored Mentos effects how much soda shoots out of the bottle when the two are combined. Kelley tested Sprite, Diet Coke, and Coke, and mint and fruit Mentos, and measured how much soda was left in the bottle after the reaction was complete.
She hypothesized that fruit Mentos and Diet Coke would induce the largest explosion. She concluded that the mint Mentos in the Diet Coke had the biggest explosion because mint Mentos have a rougher coating, would dissolve more quickly, and react with the CO2 bubbles in the soda for a bigger explosion.
Christina LeTourneau investigated different ways of melting ice and tested salt, boiling water, and food coloring. She hypothesized that salt would melt the ice the quickest because it lowers the freezing point of water, but found that boiling water melted the ice in significantly less time. She compared her data to the time taken to melt an ice cube at room temperature, her control. She concluded that hot water melts ice faster than salt, and even faster than food coloring. Her conclusion was applied to winter roads in Vermont. LeTourneau decided that the roads would still need to be salted, since hot water would eventually freeze and exacerbate the issue, even though boiling water is more effective at melting ice.
Natasha Fortin researched the effect of the weight of a pendulum bob on the time taken for one period. She hypothesized that weight would not affect the period because mass was not an element of the pendulum equation, T = 2(pi) * sqrt(L/g). She created the pendulum and calculated the average period with 5g, 10g, and 20g, which was 1.65 sec. In the future, Fortin would like to test this theory in a vacuum, use more accurate timing, and try to prevent her classmates from walking into the pendulum while she’s collecting data.
Lukas DeArruda tested the bounciness of a rubber ball as its temperature was changed. He hypothesized that the frozen ball would bounce higher because it was more solid, but this was incorrect. He concluded that bounce height increases as temperature increases because of the increased molecular energy in the ball. He applied this to sports, because the temperature of the ball has a direct effect on its bounciness, which could alter the success or consistency of a play or pass.
Talari Anderson studied the effects of the Catalase enzyme, which turns hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into oxygen gas (O2). She studied the structures and functions of enzymes, which are proteins. She learned that some require cofactors to induce a reaction, and in general, there needs to be a measurable amount of product, so extra substrate is recommended. She increased the ratio of catalase enzyme to hydrogen peroxide, and recorded increased production of O2. In the future, Anderson would improve her experiment by using a dropper instead of a pipette, mixing new substrate and enzymes every day, and by testing how catalase, or another enzyme, would react with a substance even more harmful to the human body than hydrogen peroxide.
On behalf of Black River, Miele said she’d like to thank the faculty, community, parents, and students for their continued support of the Science Fair, as it continues to provide students with an opportunity to solve problems, organize and present ideas, communicate effectively, and share classroom learning with the community.