Regional science fair lacks local competitors

Tori Catlatt of Orchard Mesa Middle School explains her experiment to judge Sue Kenney at the Western Colorado Regional Science Fair.

Middle and high school students from 14 Colorado counties came to compete for a spot in the state finals at the annual Western Colorado Regional Science Fair which took place at Colorado Mesa University Friday.

Noticeably lacking, however, were any competitors from local high schools.

“We’ve just seen less local participation for the past five years,” said Stephanie Matlock, co-director of the competition and a biology teacher at CMU.

“We talk about how we want to improve math and science but we’re not getting anyone out of our local schools,” she said, “It’s sad really.”

Several local middle school students did compete however such as Tori Catlatt from Orchard Mesa Middle School.

Her hypothesis was to test the affect of fabric softener and flammability in different fabrics. After careful experimentation and analysis, the nervous 14-year-old explained to the judges that using fabric softener does increase the risk of flammability in some materials.

The 57 judges of the competition were not only looking for good use of the scientific method but also original thought.

“We’ve seen a lot of great experiments come out of these competitions,” Matlock said.

In the past, one student attempted to grow his own penicillin while another spent every summer studying the decline of Colorado’s Aspen trees.

This year Nikki Buhrdorf and her parter from Hotchkiss High School presented “Myticulus edulis Protein Strenth: Mussels have Muscles.” They tested a variety of glues and compared them to the strength of a mussel. Buhrdorf explained to the judges that their experiment could have medical applications in the future.

Katy Kelley, 14, from Rifle Middle School built and tested a variety of trusses to see which design was the strongest.

“I think (the fair) is a good opportunity to expand in the science field,” she said. She sees herself studying earth science and hopes for a career in the oil industry.

“I just think it’s pretty cool,” said Jack Ramthun, 11, from Riverside Middle School in Newcastle.

Matlock explained that not only was the science fair a place for free thought, it also helped students fit into their peer group.

“We value athletics so much that kids who love science are often not rewarded,” she said, “This is a great way for them to be accepted while doing nice science.”


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