Bacterial growth, lactose formation, and electrolytes were just some of the topics explored by sophomores in preparation for the annual Science Fair on May 28.
"The Science Fair is an excellent way for everyone to gather together, talk about projects, and enjoy good food," said Wen Li Wang ’15.
Principal Michael McDonnell said, "This is the first time the sophomores are given the chance to create something original and present it to the school."
The Science Fair is a yearly event in which sophomores taking Research Projects present their experiments that they worked diligently on to judges. The judges included junior and senior Science Research students and alumni. Juniors and seniors were required to judge three projects and the alumni were required to judge two or three. Around 40 alumni participated in the judging this year. The entire process is student run, and teachers only step in as extras if an alumni doesn’t show up.
Unlike other years, this year, according to Ms. Jennifer Sullivan, there were only three research classes compared to last year’s four. There were also a lot more group projects.
"It went smoothly this year since there was a smaller group," said Mr. Glenn Elert, Science Research teacher. He also added that this year, judges had more time to give feedback and were able to give each project more individualized attention.
Last year, each judge was assigned five projects, which caused judges to rush to finish grading all the projects assigned to them, instead of being able to individualize their comments for each project.
Sophomores were judged based on six different components: poster, abstract, materials and methods, analysis and conclusion, and presentation. Individual projects were scored out of 60, while team projects out of 70. Each project was judged by five different randomly assigned judges to ensure a just and equitable judgment.
"It was a fair rubric and well rounded approach," said Stefanie Henry ’14. "There was room to ask questions."
One of the challenges faced by students was the lack of time to prepare for the project. Students had two weeks to perform their experiments and decorate their poster boards.
"If we had more time to do our projects," said Gary Shun ’17, "we could’ve more accurately measured the results and data."
Mark Dela Pena ’17 said, "We wanted to use a real video recorder to record actual times so they could be more accurate, but we didn’t have time." His partner, Marco Rodriguez ’17, added that the video cameras added credibility because "human perception is often flawed."
The lack of sufficient time caused many students to cut corners when finalizing their research.
Choosing a topic was also difficult for some students.
For example, Ilham Ahmed ’17 had to go through several websites before finding a topic that interested her. At the end, she finally decided to work on lactose formation in various milks.
"I chose this topic because I really like the food sciences and this is a serious issue for lactose intolerant people," said Ahmed. "They need to drink milk because of the nutrients, but they can’t have the lactose."
Finally, another challenge the students had to overcome was the limitation of resources to carry on their projects.
According to Asia Le ’16, there were many projects that involved bacteria. However, students who had projects related to bacteria were only allowed to perform the experiments with resources provided in the research room, A214.
Amna Aslam ’17, who conducted her research on acne, said, "I couldn’t get pathogens, the bacteria that causes acne, which I needed for my desired experiment. It was also hard getting statistics and analyzing the data."
Taiseer Uddin ’17 and Pauletta Lazarevskiy ’17 did their experiment on sound levels and faced many difficulties with finding a quiet room in the school to test their sound level meter. They had to talk to many teachers and switch rooms a few times in order to complete their experiment.
Despite the many difficulties and challenges sophomores faced to get ready for the science fair, the result was rewarding. Researchers were given the opportunity to investigate topics based on their hobbies and the problems they face everyday. They also developed projects that they believed would be beneficial to others.
"I like sports and I like to exercise. I know that sports drinks have electrolytes and I wanted to see if they had a higher concentration of electrolytes than orange juice," said Joanna Midura ’17. "I know you’re not supposed to drink orange juice after working out because of all the carbohydrates, but I just wanted to try and see."
Aslam decided to research on the effects of various cleansers on acne production because she felt that acne is a problem that plagues people of all ages.
"I have acne. Adults have acne. Many people have acne," said Aslam. "It’s very common and I wanted to test which products works best. Neutrogena is the most expensive and it’s always advertised as the best. However advertisers never tell us what it’s being compared to."
Ramirez and Pena decided to work on testing the effects of different Sun Protection Factors (SPF)’s on UV beads.
"We started off with this because since it’s almost summer, most people go to the beach," said Pena. "People always say SPF 100 is the best so we did a test to see whether it really was."
Overall, judges were very pleased with the projects and the amount of work that the sophomores put into creating them,
"So far I think they’re great," said Zainab Iqbal ’15. "They’re not that advanced, but that’s for junior year. This year’s projects are giving students enthusiasm for Junior Research."
Henry said, "You can tell students put a lot of dedication and time into these projects. I enjoyed seeing fellow alumni and being in the educational atmosphere again. I’m glad to see the enthusiasm for science is still strong here."
Dao Quan Lin ’13 said, "Creativity was pretty high this year, however, generating an experimental procedure still needs work."
Seniors who are currently in Science Research can be invited to judge in the next Science Fair.
"It was interesting to start here, and after going through so many competitions, come back to judge the sophomores who did the same thing I did two years ago," said Lucy Lin ’15. "It’s kind of like returning to my childhood."
Lin and Wang plan to judge the Science Fair as alumni next year after finishing their freshman year of college.
"The Science Fair is a good experience for students," said Wang. "It prepares them for college and research as a junior and/or senior."
Mr. Elert added, "It helps sophomores practice conducting experiments, analyzing data, and speaking to the public."
The Science Fair drew attention not only from those who are enthusiastic for science, but also from those who wanted to catch a glimpse of the Hornets’ display of hard work.
"It’s a different language," said Ms. Maria Feehan, a Spanish teacher. "I’m so impressed with the work of all the young scientists. They are all so prepared and poised. They can answer the questions articulately and refer back to their data charts."
Ms. Feehan added that she is impressed with all the hard work that the students put into this project and will definitely come back next year.
"I think it was the best Science Fair ever," said Principal McDonnell.
The date for awards ceremony of the Science Fair has not been determined however it will take place as soon as the scores have been calculated and places have been determined. [Editor’s note: The awards were presented Thursday, June 10, 2015.]
Written by Jocelyn Chen and Nahian Chowdhury (Class of 2016).
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of Argus.
Photos courtesy of Prianka Zaman (Class of 2013).