Fair is a magnet for county science students 2 days of displays attract about 80 experimentalists

March 16, 1997|By Dilshad D. Husain | Dilshad D. Husain,Howard County public schools Pub Date: 3/16/97 CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Armed with a trombone and an oscilloscope, Crystal Halcomb and Jessica Sims came prepared for their first science fair.

The 14-year-old ninth-graders from Oakland Mills High School were among about 80 Howard County high school students participating in the county's eighth annual Mathematics, Science and Technology Fair held at River Hill High School on Thursday and Friday.

Crystal and Jessica were eager to talk about their project -- "Analyzing Trombone Soundwaves" -- if not actually play the trombone.

"It's a pretty loud instrument," said Crystal of the trombone she has been playing for five years. "It might be embarrassing to play the trombone with so many people around, but if I have to for the judges, then I will."

Oakland Mills had the largest contingent of students -- 52 -- of the nine high schools participating in the fair.

"That's probably because we're required to do a science fair project in our classes," Crystal said.

Crystal and Jessica's project explored the effects of temperature on sound waves and showed that when a note is played sharp, the sound waves get longer. They came up with the idea because Jessica was interested in sound waves and Crystal in music.

"We just clicked together," Jessica said.

Their display was decorated with a border of musical notes and numerous hand-drawn sound waves on graph paper.

Back in their laboratory, Crystal played while Jessica videotaped the oscilloscope's images. Later, they traced the sound waves off a television screen.

"It wasn't very accurate," Jessica said. "If we were doing this again, I'd like to somehow graph the sound waves with a computer. But, still, it was effective."

Theirs was among the medley of displays that filled the River Hill gymnasium.

"Who Fiddles Faster?" tried to answer the question, "Can musicians move their fingers faster than nonmusicians?" -- winning a ribbon for ninth-grader Ryan O'Rourke of Long Reach High School.

"The Search for an Elusive Cancer Chemopreventive Compound Plums Using High Performance Liquid Chromatography" undoubtedly did whatever it was supposed to do.

One display featured a sign that screamed "SEX" in large orange letters. Beneath it, in small black letters, were the words, "has nothing to do with my project." Appropriately, the project was about advertising and the human senses.

Aron Rosenberg, a 16-year-old Oakland Mills 11th-grader, worked seven months on his project -- writing his own computer encryption code. Aron learned the basics of computer programming just last year but is already able to talk the talk.

"It's really a simple encryption code in which I used substitution and the duplex theory," Aron said. "It's not even a secure program. But then again, given how our government works, no encryption program is ever going to stay secure for long."

The county science fair was Aron's first, but he is planning to take his project to the Baltimore Science Fair.

"I really like what I'm learning here, and I plan on joining the mentor program through school so that I can learn more about computer encryption. This is something neat to do other than making computer games."

Aron's project was part of the technology category, an up and coming area of science fair projects, said Kathleen Swingle, a school system science resource teacher who coordinated the fair.

There were eight possible categories in all, said Swingle, with biology, as usual, attracting the most projects.

"What's changing is that there are more females entering science fairs and a lot more ninth- and 10th-graders," she said. "That's real promising because then the younger students can get mentors as they get older and churn out some really good projects."

Some 70 judges viewed the projects. Swingle said more than half were repeat judges. "They have as much fun judging the projects as the students have making them," she said.

Jill Walter, a ninth-grader at Oakland Mills, constructed three miniature bridges to determine which type did better in an earthquake. The 14-year-old built beam, arch and suspension bridges, then threw them against a wall.

"I first tried shaking the bridges, but that wasn't forceful enough," she said.

The suspension bridge got the highest marks.

Jill said she knew her methods were not precise, but they were the best she could come up with. "Other projects are more technical and perfect, but I still had fun with mine," she said.

Lee Summerville, the school system's science coordinator, said having fun is one of the main goals.

"There are two things students remember from high school," she said. "Outdoor phys ed and science fair projects."


Howard County science fair First-place winners

Category .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Name(s) .. .. .. .. .. .. ..School

Grand Prize .. .. .. .. .. ..Neehar Parikh .. .. ...Centennial

Mentored .. .. .. .. .. .. ..John Armstrong .. .. .. ..Atholton

Biology .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Alex Bailey .. .. ...Oakland Mills

Biology .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Lauren Wilson,

.. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. ...Molly Sunderkirk

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Kate Whitmore .. .. .Oakland Mills

Chemistry .. .. .. .. .. .. .Catherine Buxton .. .. .Long Reach

Computers .. .. .. .. .. .. .Joshua Stephen Neel .. ...Atholton

Environment .. .. .. .. .. ..Jennifer Segawa .. ..Oakland Mills

Math .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Jura Chung .. .. .. .. .Centennial

Physics .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Rachel Gealy .. .. ..Oakland Mills

Technology .. .. .. .. .. ...Sandy Schwartz .. .. .. ..Atholton

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