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January 25, 2011 > Students think outside the box

Students think outside the box

By Alyson Whitaker
Photos By Cammie Clark

The auditorium was filled to capacity with students and their families at the January 6 award ceremony for the 2011 Sunol Glen Science Fair. As winners from each grade were announced, applause erupted in support.

Participation in the Science Fair is mandatory for all students in grades 6-8, as part of their science curriculum. Although projects were optional in the lower grades, many jumped at the chance to participate. For most students, research began months ago as they worked to select a project, develop a research plan, form a hypothesis, and begin the process of gathering, tracking, and recording data.

A panel of judges was comprised of volunteers Frank Huang, Claire Dentinger, Paul Dentinger, Derek Johnson, Chris Olsen, and Eric Replogle, along with event organizer Paul Mirkarimi. Teachers Suzette Takei (7th grade) and Stephanie Fallini (6th grade) were also instrumental in the success of the event.

The judging process took place during the school day as projects were reviewed. Students were judged not only on their research findings but also their ability to answer project-specific questions and explain the everyday relevance of their project. For example, if caffeine affects plant growth, how might it influence human growth?

Katelyn Olsen (6th grade) researched how quickly bacteria grows in different types of water bottles, helping her and her family determine which type of reusable bottle is the safest.

Olivia Whitaker (6th grade) tested the water content in various fruits. Her initial hypothesis that watermelon contained the most water was based largely on the fruit's name - WATERmelon. At the completion of her experiment, she was shocked to discover that kiwi has higher water content!

Winners in the lower grades were: Maggie Campbell, Josh and Abigail Huang, and Will Olsen and Garrett Takei.

Sixth grade winners were: Brianna Mai, Olivia Whitaker, Eric Sanchez, Justin Lenhart, Katelyn Olsen and Surina Bothra.

Seventh grade winners were: Winnie Chen, Elizabeth Betchart, Zachary Sonnenschein, Adam Ball, Holleigh Jones, Kaela Takei, Sam Bower, and Lily Sullins.

Eighth grade winners were Derek Nelson, James Heald, and Monica Wenneker.

Through donations from the Community Club (Sunol's Parent/Teacher group) and corporate donations, cash prizes totaling just over $500 were awarded to the top projects in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. Seventh and eighth grade winners will go on to compete at the county level at the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair this spring.

Principal/Superintendent Molleen Barnes is thrilled with the increased participation in the last few years. Getting kids excited about Science inspires them to think outside the box and explore new and innovative ways to use their knowledge to benefit others. "It's great to see the kids see science as cool!"

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