Winning science project tests pollutants on brine shrimp

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

NW0312 Happy Valley Science Fair A

Do pollutants harm brine shrimp?

Does voltage alter brightness and speed?

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Can a vacuum be used to clean up a spill?

Fifth-grade students at Happy Valley Middle School turned to the scientific method to answer these questions and many others when they competed in a gradewide science fair. Three winners of the fair will demonstrate their knowledge of the scientific progress when they compete in a regional science fair at East Tennessee State University March 21. Students who participated in the extra-credit project chose a subject to study and had to answer a question using the scientific method, fifth-grade science teacher Robin Taylor said Wednesday.

“They had to develop a hypothesis about what would happen, then conduct experiments to test that hypothesis and then develop a conclusion based on what they found,” Taylor said.

The first-place winner at the fifth-grade science fair was Mariah Albritton-Baird. Her project tested whether pollutants in the water would harm brine shrimp. To test her hypothesis, Mariah measured the effects of different contaminants on brine shrimp, who live naturally in salt lakes. Brine shrimp are also known as sea monkeys.

The brine shrimp were exposed to motor oil, Mountain Dew, aspirin, human urine, sunscreen, laundry soap and bug repellent.

“These are just short-term results over two days,” Mariah said. “The human urine caused neurological damage. The Mountain Dew killed them instantly. What this tells us is, basically, we don’t want to put Mountain Dew into salt lakes.”

Mariah chose her project because she is interested in marine biology, she said. Meghan Ward took second place for her project, “Danger High Voltage.” Meghan wanted to determine whether high voltage would affect light brightness or fan speed.

“Yes, voltage does make a difference,” Ward said. “It can make the light brighter or the fan faster.”

For her project, Meghan used different batteries as power sources. She measured their power using a voltage meter, then recorded how a small light and fan performed with the different power sources.

Ward chose her project because she finds electricity interesting.

“Electricity is so fascinating,” she said. “I knew it would be a project people would be interested in.”

Third-place winner was Zane Geib studied whether a vacuum could be used to clean up a spill.

To test his subject, Zane created two scenarios in which oxygen was removed from an enclosed area to see whether the force would move the other materials in the space. In the first, the goal was to use the vacuum created by the loss of oxygen to clean up a liquid by sucking it back into a container.

In the other, the goal was to suck an egg into a bottle when the loss of oxygen created the vacuum.

“I found that removing oxygen will create a vacuum,” Geib said. “I found this project online when I was looking for a new magic trick. I wanted to see if it would work, and it turned into a pretty good science fair project.”

The students had to explain their projects to a group of judges and answer questions to show they fully understood the topic they researched. Students could earn extra credit in their science class for participating, Taylor said.

“I was very pleased with the projects,” she said. “They put forth a good effort. I want to encourage them to learn science. Sometimes they need something fun and hands-on to participate in to make them excited about learning.”

The three finalists will be included in a regionwide science fair at ETSU that is open to schools from all around East Tennessee. Students will be judged by grade level at the fair, and winners will receive cash prizes.