"Science Fair brings out kids' inventions, experiments"

"Fifth grader Bridgett Scott explains her barometer experiment to South Whidbey Primary School Principal Bernie Mahar during the intermediate school's annual science fair. Mahar was one of a couple of dozen adult judges who evaluated student experiments.Matt Johnson / staff photoA recent Thursday was a wild day at the South Whidbey Intermediate School.Two volcanoes erupted in the lunchroom, fruit was discovered producing electricity, and a medieval catapult launched marshmallows at invaders.Fortunately, all this happened in miniature during the school's annual science fair, sparing the school complete destruction. More than 140 fifth graders built science projects that required them to hook up batteries and wires, combine acids and alkalines, root plants in water, as well as dozens of other chemistry, physics, biology, and astronomy experiments.Many of this year's projects loosely correlated with the energy crisis that took hold of the West Coast this year. Davis Hagglund found a fruity solution to powering a digital clock by hooking wires into pieces of copper and aluminum stuck into three lemons to produce electricity. In explaining the project to science fair judge Fred Fossek, Hagglund said the acid in the lemons reacts with the two types of metal to create positive and negative charges, which in turn produce enough voltage to power a small liquid crystal clock face.Davis did have to admit that it probably would not be practical to expect to power the millions of homes and businesses in the Puget Sound area with fruit.Somewhat more practical was the barometric experiment constructed by Bridgett Scott. Scott attached a balloon to an airtight jar, then placed the jar next to a vertical ruler in her family's living room. Every day for a couple of weeks, she checked the height of the balloon to determine how much it was affected by high and low pressure.She said the task was not as easy as it sounds.There's so many little marks, it's hard to keep track of, Scott said.One student scientist who had some fun during the fair was Kylie DeMartini. Armed with Q-Tips, maple syrup, vinegar, and pretzels, DeMartini taught science fair judge Karen Lennon about the taste sensitivity of the human tongue. Lennon found that not every area of her tongue could taste sweet, sour, and salt -- which is exactly what DeMartini had hoped.Not every experiment was as tidy as DeMartini's. James Schorr filled three identical bottles with water, then punched holes at various heights on the bottles to show the effect of water pressure. When the water pressure was too high, things got a bit out of control.My pants got a little wet, Schorr said.That sort of unpredictability was half the fun for the adult judges who evaluated the projects. Judge Mike Benway, a part time college instructor, said the best projects were those the students designed without parental help because they were more spontaneous and creative.Their participation is a lot of fun, Benway said.Participants in the fair all received ribbons for their work. "

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