Scientists showcase their projects

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Senior Daniel Gaines shares his prizewinning project with interested community members. —Ali Barlett

By Adeline Hayman

Seventy-four student projects were showcased at the 18th annual Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Science Fair on Saturday. An array of experiments, entered as either engineering or investigative projects, were judged Friday afternoon before being opened to public viewing. The students presented to three or four judges and explained the purpose and results of the projects.

      Some students based their projects on products that they use in their everyday life, like the soaps sophomores Abby Marchand and Maxwell Smith made. “The science fair has allowed me to experiment on my own,” said Abby. “It was something I could never have done in class, so I was happy to use this opportunity to work on something unique.”

Juniors Kat Roberts and Rose Engler took home 1st place in Engineering and second place overall for their solar powered phone, a continuation on their project from last year. Kat said, “Throughout last year’s competitions we got such great feedback, and possibilities for improvements from our judges; we decided to act upon those comments this year, altering and perfecting our phone.”

For some, the fair is an opportunity to combine science with fun, and to work with a friend. Others opted to address a larger problem, like senior Daniel Gaines. After learning about viruses in AP Biology, the senior and science fair grand prize winner, was interested in making his own.

“It’s a virus that targets one tissue type, which is cartilage tissue,” Daniel said. In theory, if that tissue became cancerous, Daniel’s virus would be able to kill the cells without causing as much collateral damage as chemotherapy does. Although Daniel’s cells were killed before the experiment could be properly proven as a success, Daniel still took away a big message. “I learned how to fail, and that failing is not always bad as long as you understand your mistakes and correct them. In school, if you fail a test you are stuck with an unchangeable grade, but with a science fair project, you can always try again and eventually you will get it,” he said.

   As winner of the fair, Daniel will continue on to the regional fair at Bridgewater State University this March. Not only does Daniel hope to keep advancing through the fairs, but says he also wants to continue this project throughout college.

“Once I get more access to labs, I will be able to get more trials and more concrete results,” he said. Daniel hopes to possibly pursue a job in the field of virology, a major he has been able to get familiar with because of his project.

The overall third place winner, Nathaniel Packer, created a tidal power waterwheel. Essentially, his wheel takes power from the tide to create oxygen which is pumped through a pipe to the bottom of the dead zone, a place where there is no dissolved oxygen in the water.

“It replenishes the oxygen supply in the water and hopefully brings back the ecosystem,” Nathaniel said. The sophomore was inspired to find a solution to dying ecosystems after a pond near his house grew algae blooms. Although Nathaniel’s project is a prototype, he has plans that would allow for the large scale use of his project.

In terms of finding alternative sources of clean energy and trying to help the marine environments on the Island, Nathaniel said, “We can fix this, and should be fixing it. It is possible to harness tidal power and it is a waste not to.”

A complete list of the science fair winners can be found on the school’s website, www.mvrhs.org.