Students at Science Fair apply knowledge to solve real-life ills
Some of the more than 100 middle school and high school students at the Western Colorado Science Fair explored burning questions that taxed the intellect and were never watered down.
What that means is that students from 13 Western Slope counties took on a wide range of questions, and the results were on display in Brownson Arena at Mesa State College on Friday. Winners of the science fair are to be announced today during a reception at Grand Junction City Hall after the top 20 were selected Friday night.
Eighth-graders Kate Richards and Amber Jack, inspired by the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, decided to test the effects of oil on aquatic plants.
They selected conventional motor oil, a synthetic motor oil and a canola-based oil and tested them to see how each would affect American water weed.
“We thought canola would be the best, but that turned out not to be the case,” Jack said.
As it turned out, the control, which was exposed to none of the oil, grew best, followed by the one subjected to the synthetic oil, followed by the plants subjected to canola and then conventional oils.
One other thing was clear, Richards said. The motor oil “is really bad for the environment.”
Grand Mesa Middle School students Gracie Lane and Sydney Corra, both sixth-graders, tested polymers to see if the substances that swell when wet might help save water in the Grand Valley.
Their small test plots of grasses planted in soils impregnated with polymers showed more vibrant growth than test plots that had no polymers.
Knowing that the Grand Valley receives only a small amount of rainfall, “The way to fix it is with a polymer,” Corra said.
As to whether they might go into business, “We’ve been asked about it a few times, so we’re thinking about it now,” Corra said.
More immediately, though, in seventh and eighth grades they’ll further test their idea on their teacher’s lawn, Lane said.
Another sixth-grader, Joseph Kamby of the Eagle County Charter Academy, decided to test what kind of wood burned the hottest. His experiment was predicated on the nearby presence of millions of dead lodgepole pine, killed by the massive mountain-pine-beetle infestation in the central Colorado high country.
Lodgepole, Kamby figured, would provide more heat when put to the flame than Douglas fir, aspen or spruce.
Aspen, it turned out, generated the most heat, leading him to suspect that those trees should be removed first, Kamby said.
In terms of fire risk, a lodgepole forest is “better than aspen, but it’s still a risk,” Kamby said.
Freshman Kelli Buhrdorf, sophomore Brydie Mitchell and junior Braeden Horton of Hotchkiss High School tested three forms of taxation to see how taxpayers would fare under each form.
The students chose a 19 percent flat tax, a 23 percent consumption tax (also called the Fair Tax) and the current progressive income-tax system. They subjected each to several real-life situations for a variety of taxpayers, from young single filers to families to older taxpayers.
The tax schemes were devised to generate the same amount of tax revenue as the current progressive system, and they seemed to accomplish that, the students said.
For them, the flat tax seemed to come out ahead because of the minimal amount of time needed to file, the students said.
The progressive tax was “too hard” for taxpayers to deal with, and the consumption tax too susceptible to the vagaries of consumer spending, Buhrdorf said.
The Hotchkiss students said they plan to continue their studies of the tax system.