2008 State Science & Mathematics Fair

We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.
We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology.
This is a prescription for disaster.
(Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996.)

Graphic: image of a street sign pointing to the Science Fair. A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) survey showed that less than half of American adults understand that the Earth orbits the sun yearly, only 21 percent can explain what DNA is, and just 9 percent know what a molecule is. The greatest irony of such scientific illiteracy is that as much as any other on Earth, the American economy, our health, the health of the environment, the diversity of species, global climate change, ozone depletion, and our own quality of life are all largely dependent on the science and technology that is possible because of the application of the scientific method to real world problems.

Scientists at the Agency, for example, monitor impoundment water levels and reservoir leakage in order to determine dam safety. Scientists build computer models in order to better understand the environmental consequences of acid precipitation. Scientists study natural streamflow over time in order to understand how best to mimic nature to reclaim severely eroded streambanks. Scientists research wetland values in order to, if nothing else, catalog what is lost when these values are compromised by development. Scientists work to protect fish and wildlife species by monitoring size and structure of populations in order to ensure their health and sustainability. The data and information generated by these scientists goes to inform and educate policy and decision-makers about what is possible -- and what is prudent.

The Annual Vermont State Science and Mathematics Fair offers junior and senior high school students the opportunity to explore our world, to broaden perspectives, deepen scientific understanding of how the world works, and report out the results of experimentation to their peers, teachers, and judges. Norwich University was host, on Saturday, April 5, to young scientists who competed for gold and silver medals and cash awards

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Conservation honored students participating at the 2008 Vermont State Science and Mathematics Fair. Awards were given to six student projects in recognition of outstanding achievement in application of the scientific method to solve environmental problems, to help us to live more sustainably, or to better understand human impact on organisms and ecosystems. Honored were:

SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL PROJECTS

Graphic image of a bucket. Marta McBean, a twelfth grader at Brattleboro Union High School , for her project entitled, “ The Impact of Climatalogical Variation and Tree Health on Maple Sap Production in southeastern Vermont ”.

ABSTRACT: The research was conducted in Dummerston, Putney and Brattleboro Vermont. The field work was an analysis of 50 to 75 maple trees growing under similar conditions within a commercial sugar bush located in Southern Vermont. Annual sap production was compared to growth patterns in the maple trees as recorded in the tree's growth rings and historical climatalogical data. By comparing sap production for years where the trees exhibit similar growth patterns, trends in sap production can be established independent of a tree's vigor during the growing season. The purpose of the research was to use annual tree growth as a constant so it can be proven that sap production is correlated to climate change. The variables were sap production, climatalogical data and tree health.

To assess tree health within the sugar bush soil chemistry, soil type, the diameter of the tree were determined. Climatalogical data was primarily be accessed as records of the freeze thaw cycles in the spring and the amount of rainfall during the summer (the principal season for growth). The historical sap production data is on record at the University of Vermont's Procter Maple Research Center. To evaluate the growth of the maple tree, core samples were taken to analyze growth rings. This analysis allows assessment of good growth years. Since the samples were taken from trees within the same sugar bush the good growth years should be the same for each tree.

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Graphic image of a2 penguins in front of a fridge. Ian Patch, a tenth grader at Mount St. Joseph Academy , for his project that explores, “CO 2 Emission Levels Using Shaded Pole Motors versus ECD motors ”.

ABSTRACT: The purpose of my experiment is to find an energy efficient way to cut back on the amount of CO 2 emissions produced by electrical power generation in the United States. The Electrically Commutated DC motor, or ECD motor, is a motor built for refrigeration purposes and is said to perform twice as well as the Shaded Pole motor which is in most of the refrigerators in use (Agimotors.com). I will first test and see how much better an ECD motor performs than a Shaded Pole motor. The ECD motor is said to be twice as efficient when moving cold air and uses less electricity to operate. With the results from my test I will then go on to use that data with the number of refrigerators per household in the United States from the US Census Bureau. Using that, I found the original amount of CO 2 being produced, then find the newly projected CO 2 emissions if every household in the United States (The Green Guide online) started using these new motors. My hypothesis is that the ECD motor will live up to its standards of being twice as efficient as the shaded pole motor, and will cut back on one quarter of the total CO 2 emissions caused by refrigerators alone. In conclusion my hypothesis was correct: that the ECD motor cut back on the average CO 2 emissions from refrigerators alone by 84.9% based on my calculations (the green guide, and the national census bureau). The ECD motor did, however, perform as was stated by using less electricity to operate than the shaded pole motor, and also cut back on CO 2 emissions by about two-thirds with refrigerators alone.

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Photo: Peeling paint around a window. Mandy Chan, a tenth grader at South Burlington High School for her project exploring “ Lead Paint Removal and Environmental Effects ”.

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this experiment is to determine which method of removing lead containing paint is most effective and environmentally friendly. Using a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper, or sandpaper to remove lead-based paint is not recommended because it creates large amounts of lead laden dust. For demonstration purposes, I will use two-by-two inch sandpaper squares and a piece of the original clapboard to simulate power sanding on large clapboards.

Several factors have to be taken into consideration when removing lead-based paint because they can determine the effectiveness and performance of the paint stripper. In order for my experiment to yield significant results, I will need to take into account the measurable data as well as observations from my experimentations. The variation of the amount and material of the building system component, temperature, time, substrate, and number of paint layers may lead to inaccurate results.

In the environment, lead is toxic to plants, animals, and microorganisms. Therefore, I will be performing invasive and intrusive studies on Escheria coli bacteria (common; found in intestines), Subtilis bacteria (common; found in soil), brown Planaria (Dusgesia tigrina/flatworm), and Daphnia (crustaceans; commonly found in lakes/ponds). This will represent the chemical effects of toxic lead waste on humans, plants, insects, and marine life (live subjects) until a negative effect is evident. Lead is a neurotoxin, so the movements of microbial subjects will decline when exposed to lead. I will observe bacterial movements at regular intervals and record my observations. Cell counts will be taken with a microscope. I will also be performing demonstration soil tests to determine if lead is present in the soil. In order to measure the effects of toxic agents on live subjects, exposing the microorganisms to the toxin is necessary. Note that the toxic lead waste will eventually kill the microbial subjects.

For experimental purposes, I will only be working with small portions in a controlled environment in a glove box. Four Petri dishes per paint stripper will be allotted to each live culture. Additionally, a second set of each component will provide a backup.

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JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL PROJECTS

Image of a water seal. Bailey McCarthy and Michaela Finneran , seventh graders at Mater Christi for their group project entitled, “Oil Spill”.

ABSTRACT: The purpose of our experiment was to determine whether the temperature of water and the salinity of water affected how far oil spreads in a given amount of time. Our hypothesis was if the oil was in hot and salty water, then the oil would spread throughout the majority of the bowl in thirty seconds.

The reason we expected our results to turn out this way was because the majority of oil spills that we read about took place near warmer places that had warmer waters. Since most articles were about warm water oil spills we knew that they were bigger and more threatening. When we were researching the salinity of water and oil spills that took place in salt water rather than fresh, we thought that the oil might react differently to sodium.

We first got interested in this project when we saw a commercial for Dawn Detergent, and how it was used to clean off animals after oil spills. Once we did some research, we came to the realization that oil spills are not only devastating to animals, they also kill plants and other underwater life.

When it was time to do our testing we had a bowl of water for each experiment. We put oil in each bowl (warm or cold, salt or fresh) and left it in for thirty seconds. When the thirty seconds was over, we measured how far the luster of oil was from the rim of the bowl. Our results showed that oil spread faster in unsalted, warm water.

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Graphic image of a windmill.

James Healey, Travis Clark, and Paul Cirignano , eighth graders at Christ the King School Burlington , for their group project entitled, “ The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind ”.

ABSTRACT: We hypothesize that wind turbines and wind farms of large proportion currently being used and constructed across the world could have an effect on weather and air flow. These wind farms could possibly divert weather masses and air flow, ultimately changing local weather. First we intend to build a wind tunnel, wind turbines, and two landscapes all down to scale. Using the smoke airflow method designed by NASA we will test both landscape with and without turbines to the changes in Airflow, if any. With a digital video recorder we will record the air flow over the landscapes, and create wind flow charts. Using our data and wind flow videos we came to the conclusion that in both landscape, flat and mountainous, the wind flow was affected. Especially in the case of the flat landscape, turbulence, diversion in air flow, and reduction in ground winds were created. These changes in wind flow including the lack of ground winds could result in local climatic and environmental changes.

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Grpahic image of a caterpillar on a leaf. Maggi Roper, an eighth grader at Green Mountain Union High School , for her project entitled, “Caterpillars Catching Rays”.

ABSTRACT: Before a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it has to go through stages called metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is usually an undisturbed process, but as we know the Earth's temperature is increasing drastically. This brings up the question: Does temperature affect butterfly metamorphosis, and if so, in what ways? My hypothesis is that butterflies in a higher temperature environment will increase the speed of metamorphosis, and butterflies in a lower temperature environment will slow down the speed of metamorphosis. This was tested by putting three identical butterfly environments in three different temperatures, one warm, one normal, and one cold. All the butterflies in the warm environment hatched before any of the chrysalises in the normal environment, and before any of the caterpillars in the cold environment even turned to chrysalises. These results showed that heat sped up the metamorphosis of butterflies.

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Image: ANR DEC logo.

Monetary awards are made each year by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Conservation to students for projects demonstrating outstanding achievement in applying the scientific method in studies of ecology, earth science, and environmental sciences, or they can target more specific types of projects such as the following:

  • A science project that provides demonstrated knowledge and application of an environmental concept or process (such as pollution prevention or resource conservation) that may eliminate or reduce the negative environmental impacts/consequences of human activities.
  • A science project that provides demonstrated knowledge and application of an environmental concept or process that helps us understand how to live more sustainably -- and makes clear the environmental importance of doing so.
  • A science project that provides demonstrated knowledge and application of an environmental concept or investigative process that helps us better understand natural processes or how ecosystems function.
  • A science project that provides demonstrated knowledge and application of an environmental concept or investigative process that helps us better understand the health of organisms, species, or ecosystems or the quality of natural resources.

For more information about these awards, please contact:

 

Doug Kievit-Kylar
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Department of Environmental Conservation
Office of Environmental Assistance
103 South Main Street , The Cannery
Waterbury , VT 05671-0401

(802) 241-3628
doug.kievit-kylar@state.vt.us

 

 
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