Students learn to do science, & tell about it

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PICTURED ABOVE - Hillary Brewer, right, admits that her twin sister Emily is actually 18 minutes older. The Ridgedale Junior High School students were competing in the North Central District Science Day at The Ohio State University at Marion on Saturday. (The Marion Star/James Miller)

By JOHN JARVIS • The Marion Star • March 22, 2010

MARION - Emily Brewer's project was not only recipient of a "superior" score at the Ridgedale Junior High School science fair.

"It's doable," the 13-year-old eighth-grader said, as she sat patiently waiting for a second round of judging at North Central District Science Day on Saturday at the Marion campus of The Ohio State University at Marion and Marion Technical College.

She was among about 150 young people competing in the event, for fifth- through 12th-grade students, which shared its venue with the Marion Area Science & Engineering Fair for high school students in the Alber Student Center.

Serving as one of the event's judges, Deb Bogard, a member of the Ohio Academy of Science Junior Council and Delaware John C. Dempsey Middle School science teacher, said the event isn't only about research and the scientific process.

"A huge part of the field of science and engineering is being able to communicate effectively," she said. "That's where a science fair can be very different than a standard lab class. ... It's also about communicating, making connections with other disciplines. There's a creative side you don't get to explore."

Researching her topic "Which Type of Sheep Wool Insulates Best?", Brewer determined that coarse wool provides the best insulation, keeping the space it insulates an average of 4 degrees warmer than the identical space insulated with Fiberglas. Working on the family house with her father, Matt, she even used wool from the family's sheep to insulate her bedroom, she said, adding, "It's warmer in that area."

Her project was a continuation of a science fair project she did last year, which scored a "superior" in the district event, qualifying for the state event, where it scored an "excellent." Engineers serving as judges at the event, she said, suggested she "put this on the market."

Maybe someday for the 13-year-old who wants to study agricultural engineering in college, but this day she waited to learn whether she and her twin sister, Hillary, would advance to state competition.

Across the aisle, her younger, by 18 minutes, twin hoped to repeat her "superior" performance of a year ago to reach the state science day where she also scored a "superior."

Her project, "Natural Versus Artificial Insemination on a Small Hog Farm," grew out of the consequences of the recession "because all the farmers don't have a lot of money because the economy's really bad," she said.

She said she concluded that natural insemination was more economically efficient than artificial, yielding eight piglets compared to seven. She also learned scientific procedure can be risky "when you get a really bad hog with a bad attitude. I've got one of those, and she flung me to the other side of the pen."

Unsure his questioner might be an event judge, Robby Thiel sprang to his feet to present his project, "Batteries That Make Cents." Assured he wasn't being evaluated by a judge, the Ridgedale Junior High eighth-grader let out a sigh and plopped back into the folding chair from which he had sprung to his feet.

His tri-fold poster displayed the procedures he used to conclude that quarters make more effective batteries than nickels, pennies and dimes "mostly (because of) the surface area and the mass in it." He hoped to repeat his "superior" rating that qualified him for the state event last year.

In the opposite corner of the student center gymnasium, Ryan Shaw, a Ridgedale Junior High seventh-grader, sat in front of his project, "How Does the Weight of an Object Affect the Rate It Falls At?"

An episode of the television program "Myth Busters" inspired his project. He dropped a baseball, softball, marble and bounce ball from 10 inches, 20 inches, 30 inches and 40 inches to check the results against his hypothesis that the objects would land at different speeds.

"I found it doesn't matter what the weight is, what you're using, it will always drop at the same time as the others," he said.

A few feet away, Ryan Wendel, a sophomore at Memorial High School in St. Mary's, could be excused if he was a little tired.

"That's the earliest I've ever gotten up," the 16-year-old said, referring to a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call to make the two-hour drive to Marion. A Washington, D.C., trip he won in an American Legion contest took him away from the science day in his district, but he learned The Ohio Academy of Science allowed him to compete in the North Central District event.

His project "How Does Music in a Minor Key Affect Emotion in Humans?" "helped me a lot with just learning things about music theory that I hadn't thought of before."

Reporter John Jarvis: 740-375-5154 or