2007-02-01 / News

Islanders win awards in science fair

By Michaela Kennedy

North Kingstown High School freshman science fair winners from Jamestown include (from left) Allison Smith, Caitlin Downing, Emily Lester, and Eloise Heath. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten North Kingstown High School freshman science fair winners from Jamestown include (from left) Allison Smith, Caitlin Downing, Emily Lester, and Eloise Heath. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Four high school freshman girls from Jamestown received ribbons for excellence last Wednesday evening, Jan. 24, at No. Kingstown's Earth Science Fair.

One of the young scientists also received a special recognition in the community, awarded by the Narrow River Preservation Association.

Out of 408 students in the high school who presented projects, Allison Smith placed first at the exhibition with four other students from NKHS. In March, she will go on to introduce her project at the annual Science and Engineering Fair on Earth Day at the Community College of Rhode Island. Alongside other top entries from around the state, Smith will vie for a special award given annually at the Rhode Island Science and Engineering Fair to high school students whose projects have a theme of environmental conservation, education and awareness, and support the mission of Earth Day, RI.

From the beginning, Smith was convinced that the project she chose had no chance of winning a science fair competition. She hypothesized that the temperature of a ball had an effect on its bounce. Smith tested five different tennis balls kept at varying temperatures - inside, outside, in an oven, in a refrigerator and in a freezer. She concluded that the warmer the temperature, the higher the bounce. "I'm a big tennis player, and the results will definitely help me with my tennis game," she noted.

Smith expressed shock at coming in first, but she was happy to be acknowledged for her accomplishment. "It was a big process, and I worked hard at every step," she added.

Emily Lester was one of seven students to be awarded second place at the fair. Her experiment on compacting of soil to show its affect on the rate at which water is absorbed impressed the judges. "I was surprised to be chosen. I didn't really think about it," she said. Lester concluded that less air in the soil meant less water absorption. She applied her conclusion to how people could use her findings to take better care of their lawns.

Eloise Heath and Caitlin Downing both received third-place honors in the competition. Heath explored the effects of temperature on crystal growth, testing two types of crystals in hot and cold environments. She talked about the process of giving a presentation before her science class, and then going on to exhibit before the other science teachers in the school who acted as the panel of judges. Heath showed excitement in receiving the award, adding, "It was a lot of work."

Downing agreed the endeavor took a lot of work, and she "was satisfied" with her award. Downing visited the bay at Ft. Wetherill three times a day, using a dissolved oxygen kit from the University of Rhode Island. "The oxygen content in the water is higher when the temperature is higher in the middle of the day, and plants give off more oxygen," she concluded. Downing said she enjoyed the project, and learned a lot from the experience. She showed gratitude for help received from her soccer coach, who is a marine biologist at Ft. Wetherill. "It was really interesting working with the marine biologists," Downing said, adding that she would like to be a veterinarian some day.

Downing also received the Narrow River Preservation Association Science Fair award that evening. She plans to show her work at a reception at the NRPA board of directors' meeting later in the year.

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