Students of all ages flaunt their discoveries at CREST-Jane Goodall Science Symposium

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville students Ricky Sala and Markus Woltjer teamed up for their project, which Sala explains to district Superintendent Bill Rhoades and other onlookers.Faced with a choice between his taekwondo test and the CREST-Jane Goodall Science Symposium last Friday night, Jamie Weiser did not hesitate.

The taekwondo had to be rescheduled, even if it meant performing alone in front of his master without the support of his pupils. Jamie — a homeschooled fourth-grader from Wilsonville — had simply waited too long for this district-wide science fair to let anything get in the way.

“That told me how important it was,” said Jamie’s mother, Barb Weiser. “He was willing to move something and make himself uncomfortable in order to be there.”

Jamie’s project, which explored the various uses of dams in Oregon and Arizona, was just one of hundreds on display at the 12th annual Center for Research in Environmental Sciences & Technologies (CREST) - Jane Goodall Science Symposium at West Linn High School on Friday. Students from primary, middle and high schools across the district were there — trifold posters in hand — both to share their own work and examine that of others. by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - West Linn High freshman Tanner Asher created a means of generating electricity through a household water system.

Dr. Jim Hutchison from the University of Oregon delivered a keynote address on green nanotechnology, and the night was capped with an awards ceremony for the 175 high school-aged participants in International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

“We went to the science fair at Wilsonville High School last year and saw all the projects — I’m always blown away by them,” Barb Weiser said. “I have a master’s degree, and a bachelor’s in engineering, but I look at these and go, ‘We weren’t there in high school. That wasn’t what we were doing 20 years ago.’”

Middle school projects ranged from the whimsical (“Bubble Gum Science”) to hyper-specific (“Do Smaller Fruits Have More Seeds?”). The high school section, located in the school’s gymnasium, was so expansive that it required an array of subcategories including “Physics, Chemistry and Math,” “Computer Science” and “Medicine/Health.”{img:10680}

Falling somewhere in between those categories was Ricky Sala’s project: “Analysis of Erdos’ Distance Problem in Modular Elliptic Space.” One of the few attendees to dress in a coat and tie, the Wilsonville High School senior struck a serious pose next to the project he completed with partner Markus Woltker.

“This is my first year doing ISEF,” he said. “The last science fair I did was in fifth or sixth grade.”

A surprising revelation, perhaps, given the title of his project. Would Ricky have to dumb things down for visitors who did not know the meaning of, say, “elliptic space?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘dumb it down,’” he said. “I would just say ‘use different terminology.’ So instead of ‘Cartesian,’ I would say ‘X and Y graph.’ It’s not very much different, it’s just the choice of words.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA -  Wilsonville High School student Karen Harper decided on a project that explores the feasibility of manufacturing synthetic hydrocarbon compounds.  Standing across from Ricky, another Wilsonville student, Karen Harper, admired the elaborate setup surrounding her.

“I’m a junior. I’ve been doing these since I was a freshman,” Karen said. “When people think of science projects they just kind of think of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. But there are just so many different kinds of projects here. ... There’s kind of a place for everyone.”

Karen had been working on her particular project all the way back in August. Such is often the case for ISEF students, whose ultimate goal is to be among the 1,500 students from across the world to participate in the organization’s international competition.

“It’s a lot of work to get to this point,” she said. “A lot of people don’t go to the end. Next year’s ISEF project? People are working on it right now.”

Jamie and his younger companions were far from such considerations. For these primary school students, the symposium was simply a chance to strut their creative and curious minds.

{img:10684}In Aubrey Cutler’s case, that meant exploring the finer points of bubble gum science. It’s what came to mind when the Lowrie Primary School student was tasked with beginning her project, and she enlisted her mother and sister to help test both the longevity and bubble-blowing prowess of six different types of gum.

What Aubrey found, as she told anyone who stopped by her poster on Friday, was that — just as she suspected — the Double Bubble brand created the largest bubbles, at an average of 2 inches wide. Extra, Stride and Orbit, meanwhile, had the longest-lasting flavors.

Jamie’s dam project stood just about 15 feet away, surrounded by dozens of others. Looking to give her son some space to show off, Barb Weiser floated around the room to listen and pay compliments to other children.

“It’s all good stuff,” she said. “I’m glad this is going on. This is one of the best things they do.”

Fair winners announced

At the end of the night on Friday, three ISEF projects and their authors were chosen as "Best of Fair" winners and earned a spot in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on May 12.

The three winning projects were "Analysis of the Erdos Distance Problem in Modular Elliptic Space" by Markus Woltjer and Richard Sala, of Wilsonville High School; "I'm Lichen it Too: Does the Lichen Metabolite (+)-Usnic Acid Inhibit the Plant Pathogen Rhodococcus Fascians?" by Camille Collier, of West Linn High School; and "Optimized Teacher Websites" by Milo Webster, of WLHS.

Two other students earned trips to Intel ISEF as observers, where they will not be judged but can attend and experience the fair. Those students were West Linn High School's Kayla Gadd ("Bullying: The Motivators and Outcomes for Victims-Perpetrators") and Talia Lichtenberg ("Location ... Location ... Alzheimer's?).

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Oregon City resident Ben Dye was on hand to demonstrate the potential of manufacturing using 3D printing technology. Above, his printer creates an ISEF logo from recycled plastics.

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