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Keystone Heights students join Clay Science Fair

Caleb Cushman found that drivers using a simulation did more than twice as badly as they predicted, if driving and texting.

Caleb Cushman found that drivers using a simulation did more than twice as badly as they predicted, if driving and texting.


BY JAMES WILLIAMS

Special to the Monitor

Clay Science Fair organizer Lillian Bell put together this year’s team of 200 judges who interviewed students and ranked their science fair projects.  At the school district, Nancy Watson organized the directors who in turn organized the students in their individual schools.  All of them have big jobs.

The school district event took place last Tuesday at the Reinhold Center, Clay County Agricultural Fair Grounds.

Keystone Heights Middle and High School’s science fair director and science teacher Ron Hartman said there were 488 projects entered countywide this year with more than 500 students participating. Thirty to 50 of those were expected to come from the Keystone Heights Middle and High Schools.

Bell added that organizers had trouble finding enough tables to hold all the students with their cardboard trifold displays. Some judges worried about not just the crowding but the noise level in the big exhibition rooms, which made it more difficult to hear the students’ youthful voices.

But, as always, it was the students and their projects that make or break the show. Students in behavioral science included some who studied music’s effects on memory, others studied its effects on heart rate. (One student said she no longer studied while listening to music.) Using a driving simulation app, KHHS seventh-grader Caleb Cushman found texting while driving was even more dangerous than his subjects had predicted. A new twist, a two-person team distributed abstracts to each judge, summarizing the work they had done and their results.

Student projects are divided into a variety of math and science categories, such as zoology, botany, chemistry, math, computer science, behavioral science, physics and more. The projects are further divided between junior and senior divisions.

Crowded or not, Bell said as the morning session of judging wound down that she thought it had gone as nicely as usual.  Every student was seen and judged; the crowds of judges and students were all fed. Some schools brought their own lunches or ordered out. Orange Park Rotarian Nonnie Larsen’s catering business fed the rest.

In fact, the Rotary is the main sponsor of the event, contributing funds and volunteer judges. Other volunteer judges come from the area’s military bases, the Clay County Fire Rescue, corporations and companies related or even unrelated to science. Volunteer retirees are also a major presence.

Rotary is by no means the only contributor, however; all are welcome. The Orange Park Medical Center donated large sums for special prizes for student projects. Clay Electric Cooperative is also a perennial contributor.

Top winners from this week’s fair will go on to the 59th State Science and Engineering Fair in Lakeland on April 8, 9, and 10, which can get tricky, given students exams, held around the same time.

At the state event, two students are chosen to go forward to the International Science Fair, to be held in Los Angeles May 11-16.

In her physics project, Jennifer Goodman built a catapult launch from a mouse trap and a spoon to measure distance and mass, versus distance and weight or maybe even shape. Measuring the catapulted distance of items like dimes, quarters and notebook clips was a little unpredictable, she found.

In her physics project, Jennifer Goodman built a catapult launch from a mouse trap and a spoon to measure distance and mass, versus distance and weight or maybe even shape. Measuring the catapulted distance of items like dimes, quarters and notebook clips was a little unpredictable, she found.

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