More than 20 Delaware Hayes High School students were awarded medals Thursday after their science fair projects were judged.
Delaware Science & Engineering Fair Coordinator Deborah Bogard said the judges were very impressed with the students’ projects this year, and there were no bronze medalists in the event because no student scored lower than a silver medal.
Hayes honors biology teacher Jane Kovatch said students had to come up with an environmental problem that had to be solved.
“We tried to focus this year on how environmental problems affect living organisms,” Kovatch said. “We tried to get everyone to come up with an experiment that dealt with an environmental issue and some kind of organism. I asked them to collect data that was quantitative, data they could actually graph and analyze with statistics. They had to come up with all their procedures and materials themselves, and they had to analyze their data and come to their own conclusions and then present with a board.”
Kovatch said science fair projects are one of the best ways to teach science skills.
“When we are trying to teach science skills, there are some things you just have to do to understand,” she said. “Taking them through the entire process from beginning to end and having them actually have to do science, coming up with their own ideas and problems to solve and their own hypothesis is different than just doing a cook book lab. The benefit is that it’s like real science.”
Kovatch added she is very impressed with how the students have grown since the start of the school year.
“I don’t know any better way to help them understand what science is than to just help them do it,” she said. “I feel like we’ve truly grown our students from the beginning of the year to today, where they are so proud of themselves.”
Freshman Natalie Hohman studied freeze-thaw cycles with common milkweed by keeping the seeds in the freezer for 24 hours, thawing them for 20 minutes, and then placing them in a fridge for a number of days before seeing which seeds were more viable.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working on this over the weekend,” Hohman said. “I was surprised with how many lived.”
Hohman said her experiment is very relevant to the issue of climate change.
“Climate change is affecting patterns of native plants and animals,” Hohman said. “(Milkweed) is the monarch butterfly’s main food source, and it’s not studied as much. I enjoyed it overall, it was a good project.”
Fellow freshman Paul Gabel studied radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) generated by cell phones to see if there’s one particular type of activity that produces more RF EMF than others.
“The point was to see if you could be safer on your phone if you limited yourself to only doing certain items or things,” Gabel said, adding he learned that the actual variance in RF EMF output depends on cell towers and other interfering signals.
“I enjoyed analyzing data,” Gabel said. “It was really interesting to see how all the data correlates to certain properties. I’m interested in physical science and the science behind the technology we have and how they relate together. I enjoyed doing it.”
George Callendine, a freshmen, said he picked his project, radiations effect on soybeans, because of his family.
“I picked it because my grandfather was a radiologist, and I wanted to figure out some of what he did,” Callendine said. “I picked the soybeans part because there was a study that showed low levels of radiation could increase productivity in carrots, so I thought I’d apply the same thing to soybeans to see what would happen.”
Callendine said he learned a lot by doing the project.
“I learned to problem solve and work through problems and analyze data,” he said. “I enjoyed the learning and science of it.”
Nia Lewis and Kaya Ferrell, a team of sophomores, focused their project on the effects of common pollutants on duckweed by exposing the plant to petroleum and road salt. Lewis explained that duckweed acts as a natural filtration system in bodies of water, but she believed they had killed the plants when they polluted the water.
Ferrell said the duckweed appeared dead but after some time, they learned the plant was alive and cleaning the water.
“It completely evaporated all the chemicals and recuperated,” Ferrell said. She added that she hopes research like theirs will lead to solutions to real world pollution issues.
“It was able to come back, which led to our conclusion that it could be a factor in helping water pollution,” Ferrell said.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.