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Franklin Co. students show their smarts at science fair

March 30, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A home-schooled seventh-grader took home the Grand Champion trophy from the 22nd annual Franklin Science and Technology Fair this weekend.

Kara Metzler, 12, bested students in both the junior and senior divisions to earn the honors. Her project, "Which Boat Holds the Most Weight?" tested boats in the shapes of rectangles, a square, a pyramid, a cylinder and half of a dodecahedron, a solid figure with 12 plane faces. The latter held the most weight, she said.

Metzler also received the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Mason Dixon chapter award for an exhibit in the area of manufacturing or that shows analytical capability.

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She is the daughter of Joel and Lana Metzler of Greencastle, Pa.

Amanda Fignar of Fort Loudon, Pa., a senior at Fannett-Metal High School, repeated last year's victory by winning champion honors. Fignar, 17, studied the efficiency at which various grains can be turned into fuel alcohol in her project, "Field to Fuel." Corn and Jerusalem artichokes came out on top, she said.

Fignar also won the Francis Bacon prize, given by James P. and Ruth Ann Smith, for scientific method, background knowledge and original research, and the American Chemical Society's Linus Pauling Prize for Chemistry. Her parents are Joseph and Christina Fignar.

The Franklin County Farm Bureau and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau awarded Fignar the first Science Fair scholarship for students whose agricultural-related exhibits are judged worthy.

Mathern Mellott, chairman of the science department at Fannett-Metal High School, received the first Carl Sagan Science Teacher of the Year award for excellence in teaching. Don Moats of Dodie's Restaurant and Catering of Chambersburg sponsored the award.

Mellott said the award was won by the students.

"They make the science teacher what he is," he said.

The team trophy in the junior division went to students from Waynesboro Area Middle School. The senior division trophy went to Fannett-Metal students for the second year in a row.

For the first time, students in the Fulton County school districts of Forbes Road, Central Fulton and Southern Fulton were invited to participate in the science fair.

The speaker for the awards event was Dr. Mike Nelson, who practices veterinary medicine at Shippensburg (Pa.) Animal Hospital and Mt. Rock Animal Hospital.

Nelson said the highlight of his education was spending time at the elephant retirement center of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in St. Petersburg, Fla.

He told students that a veterinarian uses science every day - specifically math, chemistry, physics and biology.

Math is extremely important in measuring drugs, he said. The drug pentobarbital can be used to control seizures or to euthanize an animal.

"The difference is in the amount," he said, and consequences would be serious if 50 milligrams and 5.0 milligrams are confused.

Blood analysis to diagnose diseases makes extensive use of chemistry, he said, as does pharmacology.

"We use physics a lot," he continued. Ultrasound is high frequency sound waves, which bounce off objects, while a computer listens for the echoes and creates an image. Nelson said he used ultrasound to diagnose a pregnancy in a 15-year-old elephant.

Nelson said he deals with at least 15 areas of biology on a daily basis.

"I have to deal with it all," he said, as most veterinarians do not specialize like other doctors do.

Responding to a question from the audience, Nelson said that choosing his favorite animal to work with was "like picking your favorite child."

While he named elephants and birds, he said that if pressed, he would have to say dogs are his favorite.

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