Posted February 23, 2009 4:58 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2009 5:02 p.m. EST
It's that time of year again! Time to observe, research, hypothesize, experiment, analyze, and - most importantly - learn!
Around the area, schools are beginning to hold science fairs, showcasing their students' exploration of any number of science-related topics. From plant growth to acids and bases, from memory to baking cookies, the projects covered the gamut -- all in the name of learning about the scientific method. One of the perks of being a scientist is occasionally getting asked to judge these projects, and I'm always amazed at some of the ideas these young scientists have for projects.
Take the winners from the science fair at Chesterbrook Academy in Cary as an example. A little while back, I had the privilege of being asked to help judge their science fair, and they had some impressive projects! The two top projects touched on two important topics; how can we remember things better and how can we bake better cookies?
Pranay Bennett Tankala tackled the topic of memory in his project called "Picture it! Do Visual Images and Triggers Help Memory Recall?". He wanted to know if using visual images and other triggers, like the old string-on-the-finger, actually helped you remember things. He asked two groups of fellow students to try and remember a list of things, but one group got the benefit of visualizing the things associated with places in the classroom. The group that got the visual aids remembered list more accurately.
After some good memory tests, I always get hungry, and the next top project provided some great help in baking some cookies! In their project, "Does the Cookie Sheet Make a Difference when Baking Cookies?", Grace and Evan Vojnovich studied which types of cookie sheets produced the best cookies. As the "foodies" in the audience know, there is a difference! Some materials do, in fact, produce better cookies -- but depending on whether you like your cookies soft and gooey or more crunchy might determine which material you'll want your next cookie sheet to be made of.
There were some other very good projects at the science fair, and all of the students should be proud of the work they did. However, only a couple of projects were able to move on to the regional science fair to compete with projects from other local schools. Congratulations to Pranay, Grace, and Evan!