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St. Joseph Students Show Off Science Fair Projects

Projects ranged from testing what types of buildings can survive earthquakes to the best way to remove gum from hair.

Grace Morabito was sure that when she put bubble gum in a Barbie doll's hair, toothpaste would get the gum out the fastest.

But, as Morabito discovered over the course of several trials, vinegar actually works best.

"The gum coagulated and just pulled apart," said Morabito, who also tested ice cubes, oil and a mixture of chocolate and egg whites for her Icky Sticky Hair project. It took the vinegar just 52 seconds to remove the gum.

Morabito and 56 other seventh-graders from held a science fair Tuesday, inviting family members and other St. Joseph students to learn about everything from the best way to keep fruit fresh to whether or not potatoes can produce voltage.

Science teacher Colin Spude said the students started working on their projects in mid-December. They had to use the scientific method, asking a question, crafting a hypothesis and performing each experiment five times.

Then, on Tuesday, the students' projects were each judged three times. Spude assembled a team of 27 judges who represented St. Joseph faculty, parish volunteers and individuals from Abbott Laboratories.

Ashley Junkunc won first place with her Crazy Complex Crystals project. The second place winner was Raquel Racette with the Concentrating Cupcake Capacity project, and Sophia Schneider received third place for her Implausible Insipid Ice project.

Here's a look at some of the students' projects:

  • Becca Richter explored which substance would help a bubble last longer before popping for her Invincible Soap Bubble project. She started with a base of typical bubble solution and added various items, including vinegar, lemon juice, corn syrup and glycerin. While she thought vinegar would work best, glycerin won out. The mixture of bubble solution and glycerin produced bubbles that lasted 11 seconds before popping, compared to nine seconds for the vinegar and just about four seconds each for the corn syrup and lemon juice. "I wanted to do something I could actually have fun with," she said of her project.
  • For her Fabulous Fresh Fruit project, Kathryn Dane set out to determine which type of container or bag would keep fruit fresh the longest. She placed three strawberries in each of several containers, including a Ziploc bag, plastic container, tin foil and a special fruit bag that is sold on TV. While she thought the latter item would work the best, the Ziploc bag won.
  • Isabelle Coyne set out to discover whether potatoes could produce voltage for her High-Powered Potatoes project. She was certain that the larger the potato was, the greater voltage it would produce. Instead, the large, 10-ounce blue potato she tested ended up producing the least voltage, while a smaller yellow potato produced the highest voltage. "I was surprised that it had some voltage," Coyne said. She also tested whether a potato could power a light bulb, but the experiment failed. Coyne said she likely would need to use multiple potatoes to power a light bulb.
  • Jonathan Paulson built five buildings out of LEGOS and tested their stability during earthquakes for his Earth-Shattering Quakes project. He created a small shake table using two foam boards and rubber balls, all held together by rubber bands. He then put the buildings on the shake table, one at a time and moved the foam boards to see how the buildings would withstand the movement. "I thought a short building with a wide base would do best," said Paulson. He was right. Not only did the short building with the wide base perform well, but so did a pyramid-shaped building. Paulson also found that skyscrapers perform well because they are built to be flexible.
  • In her Baffling Bread Slices project, Grace May set out to find which environment would cause a slice of white bread to grow the most mold. She placed six pieces of bread in various locations, including: the freezer, a countertop, her locker, a windowsill, outdoors and in dirt. The latter environment resulted in the bread growing the most mold — 51 colonies, in fact, May said. "I was surprised," noting that she left the slices of bread in their environments for two months. "Some got stale or soggy, but no mold." May hypothesized that the bread placed in dirt would grow the most mold because of the continuous exposure to moisture.

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