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Middle schools experiment with science

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West Linn-Wilsonville School District’s brightest young minds came together Jan. 29 to celebrate the culmination of months of hard work at the fourth annual Middle School Science Fair.

The top science students from Athey Creek Middle School, Rosemont Ridge Middle School and Inza R. Wood Middle School shared science fair projects they’ve been working on since September. Forty-two volunteer judges spent the day grading each of the projects — which were selected for the fair by their respective science teachers —- leading to an award celebration at the end of the night.

“Tonight is a night to celebrate our students and the truly incredible work they’ve done over the past year,” said Superintendent Bill Rhoades. “This night is evidence of that work. There are some impressive, impressive projects on display.”

Students were asked to create projects fitting into categories relating to plant and environmental sciences; engineering: electrical, energy and computer science; engineering: mechanical and materials; medicine and health sciences; chemistry, math and physics; local sustainability; behavioral and social sciences; and animal sciences and microbiology.

Using the scientific method, students conducted background research on a topic of their choosing before designing and conducting an experiment in order to test a hypothesis. The entire sixth-grade class throughout the district created science projects, as well as many seventh- and eighth-graders taking science electives. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Wood seventh-grader Michael Culp demonstrates his micro water power project.

While the hope of any scientist’s experiment is for a hypothesis to be proved right, students in the WL-WV School District showed the importance of trial and error, as well as persistence in science.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - From left, Lily Snook, Morgan Highland and Sara Steward, seventh-graders at Athey Creek, demonstrate their tennis ball throwing device.

Wood seventh-grader Michael Culp, for example, based his project around the idea of hydro energy. Wanting to channel Oregon’s rainy months into a positive, he designed three different water mill-inspired pieces using a 3-D printer. He then built a contraption that could measure the amount of energy generated by connecting the pieces at the bottom of rain gutters.

While his results were somewhat inconclusive, he said he might want to follow in his father’s footsteps as a mechanical engineer someday.

“This whole project has been amazing,” Culp said. “Even though my project was a massive failure in terms of results, I learned a ton. I realized at the end that I was using the wrong units of measurement — I should have measured in watts or jewels instead of voltage — but it’s part of the learning process. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lui Blomberg, Wood seventh-grader, shows how fiber optic cables work.

“Science almost never works out how you think it will the first time you test something. I’m already excited to start my new project year looking at something similar.”

Other students, meanwhile, were just happy for the reward of attending the middle school science fair. The invitation to the event was validation for countless long nights and weekends compiling research and conducting experiments.

“Tonight has been fun to see projects from other schools and what other kids came up with,” said Wood seventh-grader McKenna Duval, whose project aimed to create a raft powered by surface tension. “There were a lot of good ideas and really cool projects.”

CREST Program Director Amy Schauer, the lead conductor for the crazy train that is the middle school science fair, congratulated the large group of students before presenting individual awards toward the end of the night. While scores are still being weighed and totaled, the top 10 projects from each middle school will advance to the state science fair competition later in February.

Other students, meanwhile, will be invited to present at the CREST-Jane Goodall Science Symposium Feb. 25-26.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Wood seventh-graders Sophie Wheeler, left, and Kate Frechette discuss how sweets as rewards can improve test scores.

“The judges asked me to tell you all that you made their jobs extremely hard,” Schauer said before presenting a long list of awards. “We had more projects than we’ve ever had this year and everyone truly did an outstanding job.”

Ultimately, the two biggest awards of the night went to Rosemont Ridge Middle School’s Gigi Schweitzer and Sydney Burton for Best of Fair Team Project, and Rosemont’s Karah Rhoades for Best of Fair Individual Project.

While not everyone could win an award, the night served as motivation for many.

“I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do next year,” Culp said. “I have a lot of research to do, but seeing all these projects just makes me want to learn even more.”

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..