Today was that day when, once a year, I again am blown away by the talent of this state’s youth. Yes, today I was a State Science Fair judge. You can be one too, if (a) you meet the qualifications, and (b) can be down in Los Angeles for one day in late May.
Anyway, today I was panel chair for the Junior Math and Software panel, and then later was our representative for Project of the Year. Our panel (J16) was pretty good (hey, they’ve already updated it with the awards!). The winner was a 6th grader from Folsom with a project on Sudoku Patterns, where he basically developed an empirical pattern matching approach to make the puzzle easy to solve for non-mathematicians. Second place (and one of my personal favorites) was a 7th grade project from San Juan Capistrano on Human Interfaces. This kid (who was super enthusiastic) modified an HDTV with lasers in the corners and a camera inside to do screen touch capture, and then integrated a number of software packages to interface it to his Apple laptop. 3rd place was a 7th grader from Santa Cruz with a project on Hash Tables and Collision Resolution Algorithms, where he looked into three resolution algorithms and developed a program to assess their effectiveness. Fourth place was a 7th grader from Woodside with a project on Fractals, where (on her own) she came up with the summation sequences for the area.
After we awarded our category prizes, we walked around to look at the project of the year candidates in the Junior division. Mind you, these are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
The winner of POY was a Junior Applied Mechanics project from an 8th grader from Saratoga with a project that built a gyroscope out of a used hard disk drive, putting it on a prototype floating vessel with feedback to a stepper motor that adusted stabilizer fins, reducing vessel rolls by ~90%. Another interesting project was a Junior Chemistry project from an 8th grader from Folsom that analyzed chemical reactions of decontamination using spectroscopy to determine kinetic parameters. The spectroscopy was done using a Colorimeter, which the student built out of Lego mindstorm, is designed and programmed to take measurements near the dye’s wavelength of maximum absorbance. This student also derived all the equations to support his conclusion, including full blown calculus equations with derivatives.
Another interesting project, which might hit home for those folks living near Santa Cruz, was done in Junior Environmental Science by two 7th graders from Los Gatos. They noticed the green around their faucets, and wondered if there was a connection with the water and health problems their parents had. They tested well/spring water and tap water from 50 houses in the Santa Cruz Mountains for copper, pH, alkalinity, total dissolve solids, and temperature and had owners complete a water system survey, and uncovered highly acidic water that was leaching copper from the pipes. They also devised solutions to the problem, and (I believe) are presenting them to the county.
I also liked the project in Junior Human Biology from a 6th grader in Auburn. A juvenile diabetic, he wanted to determine was which Fast Acting Insulin, Novolog or Humalog, affect’s a Type 1 Juvenile Diabetic’s blood sugar the best. He experimented with his own blood suger, and determined that the generic, Humalog, was not only less expensive but was the better product.
Those were just some of the projects I liked. I urge you to look through the project listings, both Senior and Junior division. You’ll be mightily impressed.