Students share discoveries at science fair

Leslie Silverman
There were about 60 entries for this year’s Hill City School District science fair sponsored by  Parent Involvement Parent Teacher Organization. Despite the snowstorm the science fair drew a lot of attendees including Hill City resident Mary Larson.
Larson has been coming to the science fair since its inception. She enjoys seeing the creativity of the students. 
“Their ideas are so amazing,” said Larson, who also likes the way students follow through.
Larson was a middle-of-the-road science student and came to the fair to support the students. 
“They’re so knowledgeable. They worked so hard, some of them for weeks,”she said about the students. 
Parker  Fredrickson and Arianna Byers, both in eighth grade, are two of those students. They  asked the question, “what makes bread mold the fastest?”
The two originally used regular bread but learned very quickly that it has preservatives so their experiment would take a lot longer and not necessarily yield correct results.
That’s when they switched to bakery French bread. The pair cut the bread and placed it in a variety of situations including contact with hand sanitizer, water, the kitchen counter, the bottom of a shoe, a cell phone and the unwashed hands of  Arianna’s younger sister who had just gone to Sam’s Club. Byers guessed that her little sister probably touched a lot of things at Sam’s Club before she touched the bread. 
And while it’s no surprise that the unwashed-hand piece of bread was in fact the moldiest, it was surprising that the water piece of bread had very little mold. In fact it looked very similar to the hand-sanitized piece of bread. 
Fredrickson says that the experiment is a learning lesson of what happens if you don’t wash your hands.
Fifth grader Calvin Larsen asked the question of which popcorn pops the best. He analyzed his results by looking at which popcorn had the fewest kernels at the end of being microwaved. He thought Pop Secret would do better because it says “good pop” on the box. However, his results showed that Act 2 popped the best.
Larsen said it was not difficult to count the kernels and that he would still buy Pop Secret because “it’s the best popcorn in the world.” 
Perhaps one of the more unique and grotesque experiments came from seventh grader Mia Rapp. Mia had an experiment entitled “Bug vs Boil.”
Her experiment involved determining which would clean a rat skull better, boiling or dairy cow isopods, which are essentially bugs. The idea was inspired by her father who was going to clean his deer skull by boiling. 
Rapp says the experiment  was a little gross at times but was fun and interesting. She ordered the bugs off  eBay and took care of them for two months.
Frozen rats that normally get fed to snakes were also used. They were not alive when she received them.
Rapp had heard of bugs cleaning bones before but this was the first time she used them. She said the  boiling method, which was done with an old pan on top of the stove, made the skull soft. However the meat tissue and brains had to be scraped off of the boiled skull whereas the bugs had pretty much eaten the meat tissue and brains off. 
“I made my science teacher gag,” Rapp said. “She was a vegetarian before. I may have made her go back, I’m not sure.”
While the science fair had a lot of experiments and community interest it did not draw the interest of any high schoolers. Despite the allure of a cash prize for entries there were no high school entries. Fifth graders were required to do the project while middle schoolers had an option of extra credit as an incentive to get them to participate.
First place winners of the fair include Kelsey Wiese and Josie Winter for the K-4 division, Maddy Tallon for fifth grade while Fredrickson and Byers won the middle school competition.

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