Students display science skills at fair

Nikki Bahrdorf of Hotchkiss High School explains her research into Sudden Aspen Decline to judges Rex Cole and Denise Johnson during the oral judging at the Western Colorado Regional Science Fair.

Middle school students from around the Western Slope are trying to blind anyone and everyone with science.

The Western Colorado Regional Science Fair continues today in Saunders Fieldhouse at Mesa State College. Students are displaying their prowess in natural, physical, mechanical and social sciences for a chance to earn a trip to the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair at Colorado State University.

The science fair opened Friday with an array of projects that included trebuchet mechanics, how to pop the perfect popcorn and testing the ankle strength of dancers.

“It wasn’t too hard,” said Joseph McCormick, an eighth-grader at Orchard Mesa Middle School. “I have an aquarium and put a couple aquatic snails in the tank. The next day there were like five snails, and I always wondered why.”

McCormick tried to determine the optimal light exposure for aquatic snail reproduction and concluded that snails reproduce best with two hours of light.

Competing students “are not graduate students” and aren’t going to conduct complex experiments, according to the judging criteria handed out to volunteer judges. But students still can be judged on originality of an experiment, the level of skill required to execute it and how well they stated their hypothesis and adjusted for variables.

And, of course, the most important criterion question of all: Did “dear old dad do the project?”

Victoria Middleton, an eighth-grader from Hayden, said her father’s friend grows brine shrimp, which inspired her project on how much salt is best for brine shrimp. But her father didn’t do the project, she said.

For anyone who is curious, Middleton said six tablespoons of salt is best for a small colony of brine shrimp.

Part of the judging is how presentable the students look and how well they can explain their projects.

The science fair is in its 54th year.

Winners will be chosen in various categories. An overall winner will join 12 other regional winners at the state competition.


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