A Message from the Vet - February 2011
The Science Fair

When I was asked to be a junior division judge for the Windward Science Fair this year, I answered the coordinator's call with a resounding "Yes!" I love Science Fairs and the opportunity to dig around in students' minds to find a range from steady rational thought to glimmers of brilliance in kids that still think "outside the box". These are projects students have worked on for weeks with the guidance of school science counselors and mentors to prepare for the exhibit.

This year, many projects followed a contemporary theme, in line with popular subjects that we hear about in the news and classrooms: pollution, green waste, and energy efficiency. Many variations of those topics were spotted in the aisles.

There were some very clever ideas:

Deep freezing (cryogenics) was tested on seeds. The student tested the hypothesis of delayed sprouting and thriftiness of the plant compared to duration of the freeze. The germ (excuse the pun) of the idea no doubt came in part because the student's younger brother was a cryogenically preserved embryo.

Another project was interesting: how clean was the family dog's mouth? The student compared her dog's mouth bacterial load to that of other family members. Swabs were taken and cultures were grown from the mouths of the pet dog, the younger sister, the mother, the father, and the examiner. Guess who had the most bacteria? The younger sister! The family pet was second, followed by the rest of the family members.

A student with an interest in barrel racing did a study that compared different kinds of footing for competitive horses in an arena to achieve the fastest times when racing. Not only an interesting study, but of practical use for anyone involved in barrel racing.

One student tested common household food products to determine their effect on repelling ants. Another student team developed an aerodynamic auto design that was a clever leap from sports technology to fashioning an "earth friendly" auto design. And of course there could be no Science Fair that didn't involve at least one exhibit incorporating SPAM!

The judged projects that warranted the highest recommendations by each committee were chosen to go to the State Finals in March. Many more projects received honorable mention for their ingenuity, originality, and student's knowledge of the subject.

These kids are learning about science and scientific thought: they start with an idea, develop a protocol to test their hypothesis, gather data, and present the results in a comprehensive fashion. Most importantly, they learn to analyze the results. While expected results were good, it was the unexpected results that most often made the student think, pushing their awareness to further ideas, more questions, and how to perform other tests in order to get legitimate results.

Thank all of you science teachers everywhere that are getting the kids off to a good start. And good luck to the 2011 Windward District student winners at State Finals!

John Haddock, DVM

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