Southeast Michigan Regional Science Fair open to public Saturday afternoon
Skyline High School student and distance runner Spencer Morgan wanted to know the benefits of running with shoes versus without shoes. He made that the premise of his science fair project, which is on exhibit Saturday at the Southeastern Michigan Science Fair at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence building.
Morgan asked people to run 20 yards while he recorded their feet, first with shoes, then without, and then studied the videos.
"When in shoes, they generally ran on their heels," said Morgan. "Without shoes, apparently instinct kicked in and they began running on the balls of their feet for the most part."
Morgan says that making first impact with the balls of the feet is much better because it absorbs the force up into the calves and hips better (rather than the knees.)
The public is invited to see hundreds of projects at WCC from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. The fair includes the projects of middle and high school students from Hillsdale, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties.
Jeff Bradley, who runs the biomedical science program at Skyline High School, has 60 students, sophomores and juniors, participating in the science fair. He approved all of their projects, which they worked on at lunchtime, after school, and at home.
"Colleges love it (when students participate in the science fair,) said Bradley. "Students learn good protocol, and the research shows that many of these kids stick with it and go into science."
Other examples of his students' science fair projects include testing blood glucose meters that are used for diabetes and comparing their efficiency, experimenting with acne creams' effects against other pathogens, and setting up a Wii and a nerve reflex monitor in the classroom to see the results of what happens when someone tries to drive and text simultaneously.
"The question for my project is 'which substance contains the most electrolytes?'" said Skyline student Sarika Tyagi, who calculated the electrolyte content in various sports drinks, energy drinks, sodas, and juices. "I had a lot of fun doing my science fair project because it was very cool to analyze my results and apply them to daily life. I have actually never been more thrilled to be proven wrong."
Tyagi predicted Gatorade would have the most electrolytes but orange juice was the winner.
Skyline student Joanna Vuylsteke took on a food-related topic as well.
"I compared the difference in the moisture content of whole wheat and white bread and learned that whole wheat flour in bread actually gives the bread more moisture because the moisture is grounded in the whole wheat grain," said Vuylsteke.
Skyline student Abby McDonough did her science project on metamemory and compared the ability of students from different grades of high school to predict the memory strategy that would help them memorize 40 words.
"It was fun to use human participants and worthwhile to research something that is relevant to school and studying," said McDonough.
The judging committee did its job Friday and then interviewed the top five students in the high school division Saturday morning to determine the students' understanding of their own projects. The winners' names are now posted at the fair.
Former science fair judge Cinda-Sue Davis has been the fair's director since 2001. She coordinates faculty and staff from the University of Michigan and WCC as well as volunteers to run the fair.
"There is a strong correlation between participation in a regional science fair and a career in science, engineering or mathematics later in life," said Davis. "It's the actual doing of science or engineering that is exciting and rewarding, and the science fair is an opportunity to do just that."
Exhibits are evaluated by their thoroughness, accuracy, workmanship, originality, scientific thought and clarity of presentation. The top ten award winners are eligible to attend the Michigan Science and Engineering Fair in Detroit in April, and the top two winners are invited to attend the Intel International Science Fair in Phoenix, Arizona in May, all expenses paid.