Twin sisters Sophia and Elli Privitera, both eighth-graders at Mason Middle School, tested freezing and then reanimating earthworms for their project for the Mason Science Fair on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. The sisters jokingly referred to it as "zombie worms." The Enquirer/Rachel Richardson
School science fairs have come a long way from Mr. Wizard.
Gone are the days of hamster mazes and solar system models crafted from styrofoam. At the Mason Schools Science Fair on Thursday, students entered projects on solar and thermodynamic energy, desalinization systems for developing nations and artificial intelligence.
“It’s the biggest one yet and it keeps growing every year,” said Mason Middle School teacher and fair co-coordinator Mark Sullivan of the 122 projects entered in this year’s competition. “This isn’t for a grade; it’s for the love of science. The kids treat it very seriously.”
Mason Middle School seventh-grader Amy Huang tested the effectiveness of natural versus synthetic dyes on solar cells to see which conducted the most electricity at the Mason Science Fair on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. The Enquirer/Rachel Richardson
Forty-nine students received a superior ranking Thursday, making them eligible to advance to the regional Southwest Ohio Science and Engineering Expo at the University of Cincinnati on March 10.
From there it’s on to the Ohio Academy of Science State Science Day, which saw 17 Mason students compete last year.
It was the first year of entering for seventh-grader Austin Vetter, who designed, coded and built a robot to navigate through a maze. Austin, who programs in several different computer languages and runs his own computer server at home, remained modest about his project, which earned him a superior ranking and accolades from judges.
“I just wanted to show what I could do,” he said with a shrug.
Seventh-grader Amy Huang stayed up late every night for a week to evaluate her project on generating electricity with dye-sensitized solar cells. She tested the effectiveness of natural versus synthetic dyes to see which conducted the most electricity.
“I like science because there’s a lot of things you can do hands-on,” she said.
Manasa Pradhan, also in the seventh grade, constructed a solar-powered air conditioner that uses a high- to low-pressure system to generate cooled air.
“I just love science,” she said. “I saw a lot of great projects; there was a lot of competition this year.”
Amy and Manasa were among a high number of girls who entered this year’s fair, a welcome sight for teachers who try to spark girls’ interest in the STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — fields.
“Traditional science settings are male-dominated, but not here,” said Sullivan.
Critical thinking skills and an emphasis on environmental concerns were evident throughout the annual science fair, but so too were creativity and fun.
Gabe Menelik presents his project on the strength of skyscrapers to judges at the Mason Schools Science Fair on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. The Enquirer/Rachel Richardson
Eighth-grade twin sisters Sophia and Ellie Privitera froze earthworms and reanimated them to see if they could survive (they did). The twins titled their project “Cryowormics,” but jokingly nicknamed it “zombie worms.”
“We didn’t think it would be so gross,” said Ellie with a giggle.
Middle-schoolers Destyni Dulin and Jordyn Burke took one cosmetic manufacturer to task with their claims of fuller, plumper eyelashes.
“We wanted to find the one that would pop out your eyelashes more,” said Jordyn.
The pair evaluated five different mascaras to determine which brand produced longer lashes — use Covergirl Lashblast Fusion, they recommend.
While Mason students have traditionally fared well in math and science, Sullivan says shows like “Mythbusters” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” have made science cool again.
The fair has become so popular in recent years that organizers may need to seek out a larger venue than the Mason Middle School Commons to hold it in, he said.
“That’s a great problem to have,” he said with a laugh.
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