Naomi Scott wins RHS science fair
Naomi Scott of Aquinnah, a sophomore at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), won first place in the 2008 science fair for her project on organic and conventionally grown fruit. Second place went to Caitlyn Francis for a comparison of mercury levels in Starkist chunk white and chunk light tuna; and third, to Shaelah Huntington for a study of plant growth and oil pollution.
Last Saturday's edition was the ninth year of the fair, which is directed by chemistry teacher Natalie Munn. Almost 200 students participated, presenting 143 different projects in biology, chemistry, environmental science, and physics. This year a new category, engineering, attracted 27 individuals and teams to test home-made wind turbines in science teacher (and de facto assistant director) Dana Munn's Plexiglas-sided wind tunnel. The turbine competition was a crowd favorite.
A panel of 44 judges from the Island community awarded dozens of prizes and special awards. A complete list follows. In addition, lucky participants got random door prizes of pocket calculators, science-themed tee-shirts, and a digital camera.
The purpose of a science fair is to stimulate students to ask questions, and then with the help of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School science faculty, try to answer them. Many of the questions students asked have important, practical implications, and allowed students to apply science to local issues.
For example, Luke Sederholm and Corey Perrotta found that Cingular cell phone service has better coverage around Martha's Vineyard than Nextel or Verizon. To no one's surprise, in their research even Cingular didn't work in Menemsha or at the Chilmark School.
Many of the projects concerned issues of more serious concern than wireless convenience. Here is a sample:
Ms. Scott's winning project wondered whether conventional growing methods would leave greater levels of toxic substances in fruit than organically grown fruit. She turned fruit flies loose on the two kinds of fruit, and counted fatalities over 15 days (half the life expectancy of a fruit fly). Though the differences were small, fruit flies lived longer on organic fruit than on fruit raised with chemical products. Ms. Scott's study did not show whether organic fruit is better for humans - or only for fruit flies.
The Island Grown Initiative (IGI) also honored Ms. Scott's project with an award. "Naomi's project showed a marked difference in fruit fly behavior and mortality levels between flies exposed to conventional and organic produce," said IGI Executive Director and Science Fair judge Ali Berlow in a press release. "Naomi proved that regardless of how well one washes conventional produce, the toxin levels in the fruit are greater than those in organically grown produce, and that this impacts fruit fly health. This led her to conclude that regardless of price differences, it's worth it to buy organic."
Ms. Francis's second-place project also dealt with toxins. Her father is a fisherman, and she wanted to study the levels of mercury in his catch. However, standardization proved impossible in the time she had, and she settled on two varieties of Starkist canned tuna. Using a Direct Mercury Analysis machine belonging to the Wampanoag Tribe, she found that "chunk light" Starkist has levels of mercury that the EPA concludes is dangerous for young children, though probably safe for adults. More important, she found that "chunk white" Starkist is not even safe for adults.
IGI also honored a project by Nikolai Wojkielo, which exposed honey bees to flowers treated with pyrethrum (a natural pesticide made from chrysanthemums), malathion (a chemical pesticide), and Conserve (a treatment widely used on the Vineyard to kill the larvae of the winter moth). Mr. Wojkielo found that bees exposed to malathion died right away. Those exposed to pyrethrum survived. Bees exposed to Conserve, he found, did not die at once, but Conserve disrupted the bees' navigation system, and the bees died soon after. Pollination by honey bees is an important part of Island agriculture, and if Mr. Wojkielo's findings are correct, winter moth control may need a second look.
In a press release, IGI member and Science Fair judge Noli Taylor commented, "We were impressed by Nik's project not only for showing the dramatic impact pesticides have on beneficial insects, but also for the broader conclusions he drew about the potential connection between the disruption in honey bees' navigational systems caused by pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder.... Nik found that organic pesticides did not cause these problems in bees, and hopes to share his findings with farmers here on the Vineyard to support the sustainable growing practices that our local farmers favor."
Grand Winners of the Science Fair
Dr. James Porter Award for First Place: Naomi Scott, Fruit Fly Don't Bother Me - Study of Non-Organic and Organic Fruits' Effect on Drosophila Melanogaster Dr. James Porter Award for Second Place: Caitlyn Francis, How Much Mercury is Really in a Can of Starkist Chunk White and Chunk Light Tuna Dr. James Porter Award for Third Place: Shaelah Huntington, Plant Growth and Oil Pollution
Cape and Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative Sustainable Energy Awards
1st: Evan Kendall and Lyle Zell. 2nd: Kendall Chaves and Ryan Brennan. 3rd: Tye Stein and Ben Hopkins
1st: Naomi Scott, Fruit Fly Don't Bother Me - Study of Non-Organic and Organic Fruits' Effect on Drosophila Melanogaster. 2nd: Caitlyn Francis, How Much Mercury is Really in a Can of Starkist Chunk White and Chunk Light Tuna. 3rd: Kayla Montambault, Do Different Dilutions of Disinfectants Affect the Development of Bacterial Resistance?
1st: Antoine Wafer, Plastic Wrap Permeability Under Differing Heat Conditions
2nd: Emily Mercier, Biodiesel: Clean Fuel. 3rd: Taylor Perrotta, Height of Muffins Depending on the Amount of Baking Powder.
1st: Shaelah Huntington, Plant Growth and Oil Pollution. 2nd: Caitlyn Colley, Feasibility Study: Wind vs. Tidal Power. 3rd: Sarah Johnson, The Effect of Increased Oceanic Acidity on Snails' Behavioral Responses to Crabs.
1st: Micah Agnoli, Does the Temperature of a Paintball Factor in the Accuracy
2nd: Taylor Smith, Freeze Frame: Tracking Motion with Photography. 3rd: Sidra Dumont, Are the Pricey Garbage Bags Really Worth the Extra Money?
1st: Anna Hayes and Alexandra Ferland, Sponge Garden. 2nd: Maggie Howard and Sarah Hall, Which Type of Bread Molds the Least? 3rd: Ryan Marinelli and Greg Cimeno, Which Material is Best for Sandbag Exteriors?
Special Topic Awards
Michael Wild Great Pond Science Fair Award:
Julie Pringle, How Clean is the Water at Our Beaches?
Friends of Sengekontacket Award:
Sarah Johnson, The Effect of Increased Oceanic Acidity on Snails' Behavioral Responses to Crabs.
The Lagoon Pond Award:
Michael McCarthy, Effect of Grey Water on Plants
Lloyd Henke Award:
Gail Herman, Does the Heat Make You Chirp?
Forensic Science Award:
Diana Nash, Blood Stain Patterns.
Martha's Vineyard Surcasters Association Award:
Michaella Gaines and Genevieve Hammond, Scallop Growth and Population in Edgartown.
Island Grown Initiative Awards:
Naomi Scott, Fruit Fly Don't Bother Me - Study of Non-Organic and Organic Fruits' Effect on Drosophila Melanogaster. Nikolai Wojtkielo, How Pesticides Affect Bee Behavior.
Cape Light Compact Awards:
Jerome Pikor, Power of the Tides. Caitlyn Colley, Feasibility Study: Wind vs. Tidal Power.
The Water Awards:
1st: Caitlyn Francis, How Much Mercury is Really in a Can of Starkist Chunk White and Chunk Light Tuna.
2nd: Brianna Buchanan, Effects of Pollutants on Different Soil Types.
3rd: Julie Pringle, How Clean is the Water at Our Beaches? 4th: Sarah Johnson, The Effect of Increased Oceanic Acidity on Snails' Behavioral Responses to Crabs.