June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:46 AM
"Never before has there been so much science at the South Whidbey Intermediate School as there was on Thursday.Hundreds of third, fourth, and fifth grade students spent the day operating and explaining science experiments and displays at the school's annual -- and largest ever -- PTA science fair. More than 250 students completed projects this year, which required the school to open not only its gymnasium, but also several other rooms to hold all the displays and experiments. Forty-six adult judges, all of whom are or have worked in a science-related field, evaluated the projects, handing out ribbons to all participants.The projects covered all areas of science, from diagrams of the known universe to a mock-up of a solar-powered hot dog broiler.Keying in on a subject that both fascinates and terrifies Whidbey Islanders, fifth-grade earthquake expert Colin Scott received the best marks possible for his homemade seismograph. Inside a small, cardboard box, Scott had hung a Dixie cup weighted with gravel from a string tied to a pencil straddling a hole in the top of the box. Poking through the bottom of the cup was a felt-tipped marker, which just touched the leader on a roll of adding machine paper. Scott demonstrated his machine by shaking the box and pulling the paper under the marker. As the box shook, the marker stayed in one place, recording the box's movements as peaks and valleys on the paper.Scott, who has himself been in earthquakes in California, Minnesota, and Washington, said his device probably would not record the movements of a real temblor, but was a good approximation of how a real seismograph works.It's not quite sensitive enough, Scott said, noting that in a real earthquake he probably would not take the time to pull on his seismograph's paper. He would be hiding in a safe place.Third grader T.J. Vasiliow said he learned quite a bit about the solar system by building his own scale model of our bit of space, including the planets on which he would never buy real estate.Mercury and Pluto. They're too hot and too cold, he said.Fair coordinator Susan Campbell-Sandri said the event could not have taken place without the volunteer judges and the weeks of effort from the school's students, and without dozens of tables loaned by St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, the LDS Church, and Trinity Lutheran.Intermediate and primary school students inspected the projects during the school day. Parents and members of the public got their peek at the students' creativity during a science fair open house Thursday night."