Little scientists

Published 9:04 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

King’s Fork Middle School student Rachel Gist stands with her project, “Magnetic Shielding.” She and 13 other Suffolk students participated in the Tidewater Regional Science Fair on Saturday at Old Dominion University's Webb Center.

Projects at the 60th annual Tidewater Science Fair at Old Dominion University on Saturday studied topics ranging from feline asthma to oil spills.

Fourteen Suffolk Students presented at the event, and two received awards for their work.

The competition was open to students from any of the school districts in the Tidewater region.

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“It’s amazing what some of these kids can do and the effort they put into it,” said Chuck Good, science fair judge and facility systems safety engineer with NASA Langley. “These are the kids that will graduate in the top of their class. These are the shining stars, so to speak.”

Students and parents spent the better part of the day at Old Dominion University’s Webb Center viewing other students’ projects, explaining their projects to passersby and waiting for the awards assembly that began at 2 p.m.

Students were inspired by their interests and the issues they encounter in their daily lives.

“It was a self-motivated project,” said Sydney Wash, King’s Fork Middle School student and softball player who developed a project to determine how moving the pitching mound at King’s Fork High School might affect the speed of her pitches.

“No matter what, if I move back further, the speed will still be the same, it will just take more time to get there,” she said.

Other students were motivated by helping others — including their pets.

“My cat, Chesty, has feline asthma,” said Samantha Henry, a John Yeates Middle School student. “I’ve always wanted to do something to help him because he has always been suffering from it.”

With her veterinarian’s approval, Samantha used her own inhaler and a mask provided by the veterinarian to administer asthma medication to Chesty. She then collected data on how active her cat was with and without the inhaler.

Chesty became more active with the inhaler, Samantha said.

Suffolk students qualified for the event through placing in their school’s competition, according to Julie Byrd, middle school lead teacher for math and science. Students applied and were invited to attend the regional science fair.

“This gives them a good foundation in that scientific investigation,” Byrd said.

Many of the students exhibited their love for science and their interests in pursuing careers in a science-related field.

“I’m deeply passionate about science,” Samantha said. “I want to do Secret Service work, and that plays a big part.”

“I really kind of want to be an inventor,” said Jabren Barclift, a King’s Fork Middle School student who developed a project to determine if paper airplanes would fly further with longer or shorter wingspans.

“If I decide to be plane engineer, this will help me to decide if a plane needs a wider wingspan or a smaller wingspan.”

Rachel Gist, a King’s Fork Middle School student, developed a project on magnetic shielding.

“It gives kids an opportunity to show what they’ve done and how hard they’ve worked,” Rachel said.

“I think it is great to see all the hard work that the kids have put into it,” said Beth Gist, Rachel’s mother. “It keeps them motivated and interested in certain topics.”

“My favorite part is talking to new people and looking at other people’s projects,” Jabren said. “It’s just really fun, and I enjoy it.”

Rachel won third place in the category of physics and astronomy, and Samantha was awarded honorable mention in animal science.