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home : education : schools May 25, 2016

2/25/2014 12:56:00 PM
Sisters Science Fair educates community
Dr. John Huntsberger shows Holly Davis the Questar 7 telescope. photo by Jerry Baldock
+ click to enlarge
Dr. John Huntsberger shows Holly Davis the Questar 7 telescope. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Over 100 students impressed their teachers and the community with displays of scientific knowledge, creativity and enthusiasm at the third annual Sisters Science Fair on Saturday.

The Sisters High School commons transformed into a giant science laboratory and was energized with excitement from students demonstrating their experiments. One of the multiple points of combustion going off during the science fair emanated from exploding balloons, demonstrated as an element of combustion between hydrogen and oxygen. The exhibit brought many spectators over to find out what the boom was all about.

Interested folks learned that a balloon filled with helium is not reactive when you light a fire under it. On the other hand, if you try it under a balloon filled with hydrogen, it is more reactive and sounds even louder when it pops. But if you add hydrogen and oxygen together in a balloon it becomes a detonation.

Cal Allen, co-founder of the Sisters Science Club and event organizer, radiated energy as he spoke of this year's fair.

"I think this year is great. So many students have taken the time and effort to put their own displays together," he said. "We are getting more and more students taking the responsibility to provide their own projects. Each experiment is researched, designed and carried out by the student."

Another loud reverberation from the front of the commons brought folks over to take a look at the ping pong cannon, built by Cal Allen and John Knox.

"This is a vacuum cannon operated solely on atmospheric air pressure," Ed Weiser, science club volunteer, explained. "Each end of the pipe is sealed with a thin strong plastic called mylar. Then a ping pong ball is positioned in the pipe. The pump produces a vacuum and when the mylar holding the air out is punctured, the incoming air creates a propulsive force on the ping pong ball. The air propels it forward with a speed of 400 mph, enough force to cause a hole through the soda can and a loud bang to be heard."

Outside the drama room a line of kids and parents waited for the Star Lab exhibit to open for a wondrous view of the night sky with all its brightly lit constellations in a portable planetarium.

The science fair had more than educational experiments, demonstrations and contests. Celeste Baine, director of Engineering Education Service Center, was there with books and pamphlets for teachers and students to browse through for future opportunities.

"We try to get the middle school and high school teachers involved. We provide teacher workshops and materials to inspire the kids," said Baine.

Cal Allen's science club founding partner Bob Collins was helping the kids with experiments throughout the day.

"The kids are in high energy, running around with lots of smiles," he said. "Then there are those in deep concentration, striving for perfection with their experiments. We have great designs this year and we get a lot of ideas from these projects. We are going to build a stream bed like the one they have brought from Wizard Falls."

The stream table designed by Mike Riehle for Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery had lots of visitors, as volunteer Dan White showed folks how they recreated a normal stream setting with water, rocks and sediment.

"We are showing people how streams work. We can add water through our water cycling system and can adjust the flow to simulate a dry year or flooding. We can also simulate rapids and ripples and create little pools where fish could hang out, if it were a real stream."

The Aquatic Zoo, a large aquarium filled with young Chinook salmon and rainbow trout, was part of the Stream Exhibit brought by the Sisters Ranger District.

"I have been educating the kids that come by to watch all the fish, by discussing the different characteristics that tell them apart," said project manager Darek Staab.

With a wide range of exhibits from pulleys and worm compost systems to lemon batteries and exploring photo synthesis, the Science Fair's high energy kept its spark, and by 2 p.m. nearly 700 curious folks had walked through the High School Commons.

In the gymnasium, 24 teams signed up for the Design Construct Compete event (DCC), or catapult contest, where participants had built a device from plastic, wood, or steel capable of propelling tennis balls across the room and into a hoop.

"This year they ratcheted up the level of challenge, since they used two tennis balls, one filled with water," said physics teacher Rob Corrigan. "It's all about precision; it's a challenging engineering feat."

After over an hour of difficult catapulting, the first-place winner was Sisters High School student Ben Larson.

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