Nine local students head to state science fair

Six projects from students throughout Tulare County will be representing their hometowns at the state science fair this April

VISALIA – From creating energy from a water wheel to studying the Lichtenberg effect, nine elementary school students in Tulare County are now headed to the state science fair.

During the eighth Annual STEAM Expo, held Saturday, students presented their science fair projects to judges. The projects, created by elementary and middle school students, explored issues in Earth and Space Sciences, Physical Science, Life Sciences, and Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Toward the end of the day, those who participated in the Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair gathered in the lobby to receive awards and learn which projects were selected to advance to the California State Science Fair, being held virtually April 11. The top six projects selected to represent Tulare County at the state science fair were:

  • “Water At Its Finest” — Jayden Solmantil and Andrew Toledo, Porterville’s Westfield Elementary School
  • “See It or Not” — Ryland Lang, Three Rivers Union School
  • “FIRE Management” — Mason Peterson, Porterville’s Westfield Elementary School
  • “Making ‘Wheel’ Energy” — Nathan Freed and Leonardo Gonzalez, Westfield Elementary School
  • “The Lichtenberg Effect” — Lucy Colesberry and Lillie Shepard, Springville Union School
  • “Is the 5-Second Rule True?” — Carley Chea, Porterville’s St. Anne’s School

"Water At Its Finest"

Students Solmantil and Toledo based their science fair project around filtering water through different materials. The two ran water through charcoal, sand and small rocks. They originally hypothesized that charcoal would be the best means to filter water, and through their experiment, found they were right.

"See It or Not"

Lang tested 30 individuals in three different age groups of both genders. The goal was to determine if age and gender mattered when it came to seeing ambiguous figures, which are pictures often used in psychology that contain various images that can be seen in different ways depending on the person. Lang’s experiment showed that women 45 years and older were the fastest to spot an image in the ambiguous figures, and females 11-24 were the slowest. Males tested similar in all age groups.

"FIRE Management"

Peterson based his project on forest thinning, and predicted that it would help prevent wildfires. To test this theory, he placed a tumbleweed inside a mock forest that had dirt, leaves and brush. Then, he lit the tumbleweed on fire and measured the time it took to burn and the temperature it reached. After that, he repeated the process, but in a mock forest that contained 1/4 less brush and leaves than the first mock forest. By the end of the experiment, Peterson proved that the unthinned mock forest burned for a much longer period of time and at a much higher temperature, while the thinned mock forest burned much shorter and at a lower temperature.

"Making 'Wheel' Energy"

Freed and Gonzalez created their own water wheel for their project. The wheel they constructed was made out of plastic spoons, and a “water tank” was placed directly above the wheel, and would drip water onto the cups of the spoon in order to turn the wheel. Then, using a handheld power meter, they tested if the water wheel created electricity, and it worked.

"The Lichtenberg Effect"

Colesberry and Shepard tested how different amounts of baking soda would change the Lichtenberg effect, which is a fern-like pattern that appears on things that are struck by lightning. Using a piece of wood, they sprinkled different amounts of baking soda on the surface, and then hooked it up to a large battery. The battery shocked the wood and left different fern-like shapes on each piece of wood.

"Is the 5-Second Rule True?"

Chea’s project measured how quickly bacteria can grow on foods that are dropped on the ground to determine if the 5-second rule really worked. To determine this, she put crackers, apples and bread to the test. She dropped each type of food on different surfaces, such as the floor, counter, sink and more. She then put them in a petri dish and heated them up so bacteria would grow quicker. She was able to even take photos of all the bacteria that grew on each food item after dropping it.

The Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair is held annually in the Spring. Over 100 projects were entered into competition, and showcase the efforts and achievements in science and engineering by students throughout Tulare County. Science experts representing a wide variety of public and private sectors are invited to judge the projects.

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