Several take honors at March 3 competition for scientific projects
Our bread is making us fat and sick, our water can be cleaned of E. coli bacteria, and the best place to kick a soccer ball may be the grounds of Gresham High School.
Such were the conclusions reached by budding young scientists at the school, which hosted the Gresham-Barlow Science Expo on Saturday, March 3. The fair is affiliated with the Northwest Science Expo System and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
The Expo featured more than 80 student projects, with more than 120 student participants from almost a dozen Oregon private and public schools, says Stephen Scannell, a Gresham High teacher.
More than $12,000 in prizes and scholarships were awarded, and 32 projects have advanced to compete at the Intel Northwest Science Expo on March 23 at Portland State University (nwse.org).
Gresham freshman Emily Schnepp, 15, took first place in the microbiology category for her work using ultraviolet light to decontaminate Johnson Creek water. She also received an award for excellence from the Oregon Environmental Health Association.
The water contained E. coli bacteria, she says, and Schnepp used the light to mutate the bacteria, making it unable to replicate. The bacteria comes from waste products from deer and cows, among other animals, and is responsible for food-borne illnesses in humans.
'I'd been listening to the news and there'd been a lot of E. coli stories,' Schnepp says. 'I thought if we did something like this, maybe we could solve the problem.'
Schnepp envisions using ultraviolet light on a large scale to decontaminate irrigated water. She will compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair May 13-18 in Pittsburgh. The fair is the world's largest international pre-college science competition and features more than 1,500 top students from more than 65 countries and territories.
Other students who shined at the Expo included Jasmin Kennard, 16, a junior who studied the prevalence of sweeteners in sandwich bread.
Over the past century, she says, commercial bakers have used more and more sugar in bread because it speeds up the process of raising the dough. However, the overabundance of sugar in bread is making people obese and helping to cause Type II diabetes, among other ills, she says.
'Bread is a staple of our diet that we really haven't examined for sugar content,' she says, noting she studied 162 kinds of bread and only three had a healthy amount of sugar.
Sourdough and rye breads were the healthiest, she adds, whereas multi-grain and whole grain had too much sweetener for your own good. For her efforts, she earned an honorable mention award in the medicine and health sciences category.
Aleck Blanger, 17, a senior, worked on a project that studied the speed, precision and accuracy of pellets fired from an air rifle. He and his project partner, Paul Pham, found that pellets used for hunting small animals were actually more precise and accurate in hitting a target than pellets used in shooting competitions.
The team earned third place in physics and astronomy for its work, and Blanger says the pellet study embodies why he loves physics.
'The stuff that really interests me is … the way atoms move or the way stars behave or the speed of light,' he says.
Finally, Jessie Stone and Drexel Grimes, both 17 and juniors, studied the trajectories of soccer balls kicked on the fields of Gresham, Barlow, Reynolds and Centennial high schools.
They duo found the ball moved most easily on Gresham's artificial turf because it's so worn down. Reynolds and Centennial have grass, they add, and Barlow's turf is newer than Gresham's.
'When you kick the ball, it moves freely,' Stone says.
'Barlow's turf is longer and rich and has fibers that can stop the ball,' Grimes says.
Stone and Grimes earned an honorable mention in physics and astronomy for their work.
All five of the students say they enjoyed the Expo, especially because they could meet students from other schools interested in science.
'I found it interesting to see the passion all these kids have,' Blanger says.
East County winners
In addition to the students who talked to The Outlook, the following students from East County high schools also won awards at the fair:
• Outstanding Project in an Atmospheric Science Exhibit and Earth Science, first place: Elizabeth DeLozier and Timothy DeLozier, Gresham.
• Mathematical Sciences, honorable mention: Jeremy Linch, Gresham.
• Environmental Analysis and Effects, honorable mention: Erika Bildsoe and Yulissa Flores-Lopez, Gresham.
• Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, first place: Jarred Thompson, Cody Rolph and Bryan Moran, Barlow.
• Energy and Transportation, second place: Mark Kennel, Barlow. Third: Grace Ray, Gresham.
• Chemistry, second place: Tyler Lowe. Third: Amelia Page. Honorable mention: Michelle Kasimi. All students are from Gresham.
• Biochemistry, first place: Dimitriy Strelkov and John Martin, Reynolds.
• Animal Sciences, third place: Kelsey Miler, Gresham.
Volunteers and judges are needed for the state-level science fair March 23 at Portland State University. For more information, visit nwse.org or contact Stephanie Jones, fair director, at nwse_