Students address real problem at Franklin science/technology fair

April 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The lemon-powered flashlight and papier-maché volcano were nowhere to be seen Friday afternoon as students set up some of the 625 exhibits at this weekend's Franklin Science and Technology Fair.

Instead, students were setting up displays showing how they were tackling some real-world problems, such as experiments with alternative-energy sources and pollution solutions.

"This is real life," Fannett-Metal High School science teacher Mathern Mellott said of the work his students are doing. Several of the projects from his students looked at energy solutions -- Megan Smith showed that acorns make better ethanol than corn, while Bobbie Myers built a simple device to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen to boost gas mileage dramatically.

Still, there were some projects with less dramatic implications for the future -- which nail polish lasts the longest and the accuracy of the Zodiac being two examples. However, hundreds of students went through the steps of forming a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test it and reaching their own conclusions through the scientific method.


The results of all of that work will be on display through Sunday at the Franklin Science and Technology Fair, which is taking up the gymnasium and two cafeterias this weekend at Chambersburg Area Middle School. Exhibits will be open to the public today from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This is the 26th year for the fair, said Jim Smith, a retired teacher and president of the Franklin Science Council. The fair is divided into four divisions -- Primary, Intermediate, Junior and Senior -- to encourage students from kindergarten through high school to participate at their appropriate levels, he said.

"It's only this year that we've gotten our Senior Division up to where it ought to be," Smith said. That is because James Buchanan High School has fielded enough entries to challenge the supremacy of tiny Fannett-Metal High School, whose students have taken Senior Division honors five straight years.

Dakota Bricker, a sophomore at James Buchanan, examined how driving habits affected gas mileage. By accelerating smoothly, braking slowly and maintaining the speed limit, he was able to boost mileage on a pickup truck by more than 25 percent while nearly doubling the gas mileage of a sedan.

Madison Gober, a student at Waynesboro Area Middle School, wanted to determine with there is a left-brain, right-brain bias in dogs, testing their reactions to strangers, cats and their owners. She used videos and digital photography downloaded into a computer to measure the dogs' reaction based on their tail wagging.

Her conclusion: It is difficult to tell which part of its brain a dog is using.

If you go

What: Franklin Science and Technology Fair

When: Today, noon to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Chambersburg (Pa.) Area Middle School

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