E.V. Cain has strong showing at regional science fair

Six students qualify for state fair in Los Angeles
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Six local sixth graders will take their science projects to Los Angeles next month after receiving top marks in their categories last weekend at a regional science fair in Sacramento.

Thirty-four E.V. Cain Charter Middle School students competed against some 200 sixth, seventh and eighth graders from nine counties throughout northern California at the annual Sacramento Regional Science & Engineering Fair. Two E.V. Cain sixth graders, Sydney Haupt and Katie Huston, qualified to compete at the California State Science Fair at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on April 15 and 16 by placing first in their respective categories. Four others – Jack Bearry, Harrison Brazil, Zoey Lykins and Logan Meier – won second place in their categories and will go to the state competition as alternates. Two more won special awards for outstanding projects.

E.V. Cain science teacher Don Scott said the students’ showing at the competition was a school record, and more importantly demonstrated that the annual projects are an invaluable learning experience.

“There are so many different modalities that are addressed, ranging from researching, finding information, becoming experts on a topic, typing and computer skills, graphic design, oral presentations, critical thinking, being able to support their thinking orally with a  judge,” he said. “And also, I think, they’re working on a higher level then they’ve ever had to work at before, and I think when they come out of it, they feel a lot more confidence, and they’re able to go onto any other projects down the road in school and be very successful.”

In creating their projects, the students are required to develop a question and compose a thorough report of background research, then employ the scientific method: form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, make observations and form a conclusion.

The science projects are a mandatory part of Scott’s sixth grade classes, but he said some students return to compete in the science fair on their own time as seventh and eighth graders. He said the project can bring out the best in students by allowing them to choose their own subjects, which opens the door for genuine excitement about science.

“We began the process by brainstorming what they’re interested in, and making that connection. Really everything has to do with science, and regardless of their interest, it can be tied into a science fair topic,” he said. “I also provided a list of several hundred ideas to kind of get them going. We looked at internet sources, we looked at other science fairs, the science book, journals, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, anything we could to just generate ideas for science fair topics, and then they chose their own science fair topic.”

The students are currently in the process of presenting their projects on creative display boards in front of class, which Scott said is good practice for those who choose to compete in the regional fair, because they will have to talk to judges about their projects without Scott’s help.

Having won first place in the engineering category with a project that used different substances to alter the breaking point of ceramics, 11-year-old Haupt said it was her first time at the fair but probably not her last.

“I thought it was just a great experience in general, and being able to do the project and see the different results,” she said. “I want to be a scientist when I grow up, but I am also interested in science now, and ceramics.”

Twelve-year-old Bearry, who won second place in biological sciences for testing whether a rat used memory or olfaction to navigate a maze, said the best part of the experience was bonding with his father while building the maze.

Meier, the second-place winner in behavioral sciences, said he was just glad to have had the opportunity to compete at least once in case he never got to do it again.

Brazil, a second-place winner in energy and transportation and an aspiring engineer, agreed.

“It’s a very cool experience, and you know you’re probably never going to get to do it again,” he said. “It’s not a small thing.”