12/18/15 A little scientific sleuthing

Cummings High School 11th-graders, left to right back, Geonna Stewart and Leslie Vazquez, share a laugh with judges, left to right front, Erin Bain and Miriam Vine, on Thursday during the Alamance-Burlington School System’s District Science Fair at the Ramada Convention Center in Burlington.

Sam Roberts / Times-News

Cummings High School 11th-graders, left to right back, Geonna Stewart and Leslie Vazquez, share a laugh with judges, left to right front, Erin Bain and Miriam Vine, on Thursday during the Alamance-Burlington School System’s District Science Fair at the Ramada Convention Center in Burlington.

A little scientific sleuthing
Students experiment with paper airplane flights, melt rates — and ice cream
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 12/18/15  
Reprinted with permission.  

Students in the Alamance-Burlington School System explored things like the potential for “brown energy” and the impact of cold on the central nervous system at the district science fair Thursday.

“We have a lot of biology projects; that was our biggest category,” said Leslie Carriker, curriculum specialist in science.

More than 100 students had projects on display in the conference room of the Ramada Inn, taking on topics from the shape of a paper airplane that flies the farthest (the narrowest), to whether an algae solution could be used to make biodegradable batteries (possibly).

The biggest group — more than 50 — was from the elementary schools and included experiments like whether it takes longer to freeze hot water than cold (it does by about 15 minutes).

Coincidentally, ice was a common thread among a number of experiments this year. Another elementary school experiment was on what shapes— made in Star Wars molds — of ice “cubes” melt the fastest (flat ones, or in this case, Han Solo).

Leslie Vazquez and Geonna Stewart, juniors at Cummings High School, wanted to see whether ice melts faster when exposed to different types of salt — sea, rock or kosher — to improve homemade ice cream making, which required a lot of well-documented repeated experimentation.

“It was hard work,” Stewart said, “but — ice cream.”

They told the judges most people use rock salt, but they hypothesized kosher salt would work best, which it turns out it did.

The point is not whether the experiments support a student’s hypothesis, but whether students apply the scientific method well enough to learn something from the experiments.

It may seem their goal was to get ice cream out of homework, but they apparently conducted science as well as they made dessert, and they won second place in the Cummings science fair.

“We didn’t mean to win the science fair as far as we have,” Vazquez said.