Roanoke County Public Schools held the annual Science Fair at William Byrd Middle School on February 24.
Approximately 88 projects were submitted by 135 students representing the county’s five middle schools, five high schools, the Burton Center for Arts and Technology and the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School. Roanoke County Science Supervisor Julian Barnes coordinated the science fair, assisted by science teachers from the county secondary schools.
The Middle School Division included projects in Behavioral and Health Sciences, Chemistry/Microbiology, Earth and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Management/Plant Sciences, Energy: Physical/Engineering Mechanics, and Materials Science.
High School Division categories included Animal/Plant Sciences/Cellular and Molecular Biology, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Biochemistry/Biomedical Engineering/Chemistry I, Biomedical and Health Sciences/Translational Medical Science, Chemistry II, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Environmental Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics/System Software, Microbiology, and Physics and Astronomy/Energy/Engineering Mechanics.
Nine William Byrd Middle School students, sponsored by teacher Kayla Dawson, entered projects in the county science fair, including Emma Copening, Elsie Kincer, Riley Firebaugh, Emilie McCaskill, Sarah Fuchs, Haley Firebaugh, Micah Kiker, Grace Saunders, and Hannah Sutton.
Copening and Kincer won first place in the Chemistry/Microbiology category for their project “Determining Chirality of Glucose Using Polarized Light,” which tested the optical properties of glucose and fructose solutions. Copening also won first place in Chemistry in the 2017 county science fair.
Riley Firebaugh, McCaskill, and Fuchs won second place in the Energy: Physical/Engineering Mechanics category with their “Swishin’ and Dishin’” experiment in which they investigated whether basketballs bounce higher on wood, tile, carpet, or grass surfaces.
Haley Firebaugh and Micah Kiker learned in their “Floating Eggs” project that eggs float better in higher salt solutions.
Saunders and Sutton won first place in the Materials Science category for “Gels: Ooey Gooey Fun.” They explored the viscosity of gels in cornstarch/water solutions.
William Byrd High School participants in science fair included Taylor Dawson, Elizabeth Fedor, Richard Qiu, Megan James, Jada Karnes, Emily Wheeler, Kathryn Letz, Abigail Ingram, Adithya Iyer, Alexis Slusser, Emily Nicely, Claire Webb, Zachary Bray, Triniti House, and Carmen White. Instructors sponsoring their projects included Melissa Carr, Matthew Browning, Cindy Bohland, Laura Roark, and Susheela Shanta.
Dawson and Fedor determined that higher concentrations of E. globulus decreased the germination rate of radish seeds in their project, “Allelopathic Effect of E.globulus on Germination of R.sativus.” They presented their project recently at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Student Project Forum, taking first place in the Plant Sciences C category.
Qiu, along with Matthew Svec (Hidden Valley High School), won first place in the Animal/Plant Sciences/Cellular and Molecular Biology category with “Diabetes-Mediated Dysregulation of Blood-Brain Barrier: Concept, Mechanisms, and Implications.” They investigated how diabetes may alter the blood brain barrier (BBB) that protects the brain. Their project won first place recently in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology category at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Student Project Forum where they both attend. Qiu was a first-place winner in the 2017 county science fair, as well.
Megan James and Jada Karnes investigated how cell phone dependency affects everyday lives, specifically by gender and age with their “We Are Dependent” project. They determined that females are more dependent on cell phones than males, and students more than adults.
Letz won first place in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category for “The Improvement of Non-Dominant Hand Control in Writing.” Her project explored the possibility of improving non-dominant hand control in handwriting.
Wheeler won second place in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category with her project “Decadence to Depression.” She hypothesized that the use of social media, fewer sit-down family meals, and grades earned might directly correlate with rates of depression and anxiety, which have increased among teenagers today over previous generations.
Abigail Ingram explored the “Effect of IL-6 Gene Silencing on STAT3 Regulation of Pancreatic Cancer,” which she also presented at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Student Project Forum, winning first place in the Biomedical and Health Sciences B category.
Iyer won second place in the Biomedical and Health Sciences/Translational Medical Science classification with “The Synergistic Effect of Sertraline and Tetracycline on the Growth of E. coli.” He and David Whitacre (Hidden Valley High School) won first place at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Student Project Forum earlier this month in the Biomedical and Health Sciences A Category.
In “Sunscreen SPF: The Debate that Silver Nitrate will not ‘Chicken Out,’” Alexis Slusser injected chicken breasts with silver nitrate to determine whether higher or lower SPF sunscreen is more effective.
Emily Nicely and Claire Webb tested different whitening toothpastes to determine the “Effect of Toothpastes on Tea Stained Rocks.” Crest Whitening won out over Colgate and Arm and Hammer in their experiment using black tea.
Bray and his colleagues Katherine Corbett and Cais Thomas from Hidden Valley won first place in the Physics and Astronomy/Energy/Engineering Mechanics group with their project “Thermonic (Exothermic Crystallization Instrument Warmer.” Their investigation focused on pitch problems musicians face when playing outdoors in cold weather. They created a handheld case and a wrap with reusable hand warmers to warm the instruments. They are also students at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology.
Triniti House and Carmen White studied “Vantablack versus Regular Black Acrylic Paint” to determine if the more expensive Vantablack is more light absorbent than the acrylic with applications for protective use in lining telescopes, satellites, and other space instruments which might assist scientists in photographing celestial bodies. Their results showed little difference between the pigments.
Students began registration and setting up their projects in the school gymnasium at 8:30 a.m. on February 24.
Projects were then evaluated by judges from Virginia Tech, Radford, and Hollins Universities, UVA, Roanoke College, Virginia Western, the DEQ, the Western Virginia Water Authority, the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest, Carilion Pediatrics, General Electric, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Novozymes Biologicals, and several Roanoke County Schools retirees. The judges called the student exhibitors into the exhibit area for conferences on their projects.
Once the judging process was completed, the public was invited to view the projects prior to the presentation of prizes and awards by category in the auditorium.
First and second place winners (along with several third place winners in the high school division) advance to the regional science fair to be held at Virginia Western Community College on March 17.
Awards at the Western Virginia Regional Science Fair include scholarships from Roanoke College, Hollins University, and Virginia Western Community College. The grand winner from the regional science fair will receive a paid trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, May 13-18.
The state science fair will take place in Roanoke at the Berglund Center on April 14.
Barnes thanked sponsors who made the Roanoke County Science Fair possible and provided prizes including Aztec Rentals, the Vinton Bojangles, Davenport & Co. LLC, Hanging Rock Golf Club, the Orange Avenue Hardee’s, Hart Motor Co., Krispy Kreme Donuts, the Vinton McDonald’s, Opera Roanoke, Pepsi Cola of Roanoke, the RCPS Education Foundation, the Salem Red Sox, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the Roanoker Restaurant, the Western Virginia Water Authority, and Wet ‘n Wild Emerald Pointe.