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Student science fair showcases creativity, critical thinking

PALMETTO -- “This is almost college-level,” Corey Wiersema, a part-time Manatee County resident, said Wednesday as he walked among 270 science fair projects on display at the Manatee County fairgrounds. “This is just amazing.”

Wiersema was most impressed with how Justin Corley of Lee Middle School learned that old lemons generated more battery power than fresh lemons.

He also praised the work of Danielle Wilson, a Haile Middle School student who discovered that electrolytes in orange and grapefruit juice were greater than those in Gatorade beverages.

Creativity and critical thinking skills were evident all throughout the annual science fair, which concludes with a display from 4:30 to 8 p.m. today.

Environmental concerns came through several students’ projects.

Marissa Dubois, also a Haile Middle School student, said water conservation inspired her look at whether ferric nitrate was an effective catalyst in splitting water molecules. (It wasn’t.)

Acid rain was the subject of several students’ projects, including Palmetto High’s Rachel Rizzo, who studied how acid rain affected building materials and found that brick was affected by vinegar less than granite and limestone.

The Southeast High duo of Amanda Emeneker and Nina Liang showed through their “Singing in the Acid Rain” display that lemon-tinged water resulted in withered plants, and tap water helped grow strong upright plants.

“What a glorious feeling it is to be singing in the rain,” the two wrote in a display that was both artful (with photos of Fred Astaire) and gloomy (with photos of smog-filled skies). “But when you think of what these raindrops can do to the ecosystem, you might be surprised.”

Several students also focused on health concerns, including one who tracked blood pressure measurements of one relative with healthy habits including exercise and a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, and another with unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes and eating fast food. The student found the exercising, non-smoking relative had consistently lower blood pressure over seven days.

Sandy Andrews and Charlene Burton, two retired education professionals, found themselves most drawn to Jalynne Brown’s comparison of vocabulary test scores by students who used iPads, and students who used traditional study aids.

They were surprised and impressed to read that Brown, a student at Lincoln Middle School, discovered students with iPads scored worst of all, while students using old-fashioned flash cards performed the best. Brown went a step further with her experiment, theorizing that games and other apps may have distracted students using the iPads.

“This just shows how the world has evolved,” Andrews said.

Science fair winners will be announced Jan. 26 and will advance on to regional competition.

Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.