How does global warming affect corn crops? How much salt do you need to add to water to make an egg float? How much sawdust can you put in a cereal treat bar before someone notices? These are just a few questions asked by students from schools all across the region as they participated in the Flathead County Science Fair on Thursday.
Science lovers of all ages packed into the Expo Center at the Flathead County Fairgrounds to take a look at projects from students in third grade and up.
Retired civil engineer Roger Marsonette has been judging the science fair for about seven years. He likes seeing what the students can come up with for their projects.
“To see the imagination of the kids — some of their experiments are just different from the typical boiling water kind of stuff. There are some really interesting things out there, how they go through their experiments and how they can apply it to the real world,” Marsonette said.
Many students said they drew inspiration from what was around them to come up with the idea for their experiments.
Fifth-grader Lilly Dotter from Edgerton Elementary noticed how many bridges there are around the valley and started to wonder what kind of bridge is the best.
“We have a lot of bridges around here because of the rivers and ravines that we have, so I decided to try and find out which kind of bridge is the most common and which one can hold the most weight. I’ve also been really interested in architecture lately, and that requires a lot of math which is my favorite subject,” Dotter said.
Fourth-grader Max Jackson, from Ruder Elementary in Columbia Falls, was inspired by an old way to make plastic using milk. Casein plastic was a common way to make different kinds of ornaments from 1900 until around 1945. Jackson was interested in learning what kinds of milk would yield the most plastic.
“The question is how much casein plastic can I get out of different amounts of milk and vinegar? My hypothesis is if I am using whole milk, I thought I would make the most casein because it’s the closest to the kind of milk they used back in the day,” Jackson said.
WHILE TINKERING with his battle robot, Glacier High School sophomore Jedah Wong pointed out that the robot shoots out discs at his competitor. He was surrounded by other robotics students who were demonstrating their machines in a small ring set up toward the back of the Expo Center. Wong said a recent competition involving the robots revealed a bunch of problems that needed fixing.
“I enjoy the process of making something that eventually works, like solving every problem that comes up and it’s just so satisfying when you come up with the final product,” Wong said.
St. Matthew’s Catholic School sixth-grader Cole Shettler got the idea for his project from an online meme, titled “How much sawdust can you put in a Rice Krispy Treat before someone notices?” Sawdust has historically been used to cut bread and other kinds of food in times of famine.
Shettler said he had a lot of fun doing the experiments and got some interesting results. Though everyone had no trouble tasting the sawdust at 50-100%, more women tasted it at 15% and 30%. He related this to studies that show women have more taste buds than men.
“I tested it on my family … most of them were OK with it because they knew it was a science fair project, but some of them I did have to convince,” Shettler said.
Science fair heavyweight and Flathead High School senior Kenna Anderson returned after a successful year competing in 2022. Last year at state, Anderson’s science project, “The Effect of Ocean Acidification on Carbon Sequestration by Nannochloropsis,” won the Larry Fauque second-place award, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and a gold ribbon in the environmental sciences category. She also qualified for one of two spots to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair.
This year, she had her sights set on an equally ambitious project: “The effect of Levofloxacin on the Reproduction of Dunaliella salina.” Levofloxacin is an antibiotic that’s used to treat bacteria in many different parts of the body. This medicine and many other pharmaceuticals can accumulate in the environment and Anderson wanted to know the extent it could impact the growth of algae.
“The drug Levofloxacin has a drastic impact at different amounts on the population of algae. Which kind of functions as a proof of concept for how it functions in our own cells and bacterial cells, which is what it’s prescribed for, and how that bioaccumulation in the environment actually looks in our ecosystems,” Anderson said.
Columbia Falls’ Glacier Gateway third graders Natalie Raymond and Kaia Kane were enjoying a snack break when they took time to explain their projects.
“Mine is an electric motor and there is always an electric current with the static magnets,” Raymond said eagerly.
“I wanted to see how much salt it takes for an egg to float in water and I learned about buoyancy, density and water displacement,” Kane said. “I like the science fair because you actually get to learn more about science, like the Archimedes’ principle — I didn’t know anything about that until I did this experiment. There’s always so much more to learn and discover.”
Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at [email protected]
2023 Flathead County Science Fair Awards
Audubon Society – Wildlife Conservation Award: Jenna Kimble
Glacier Institute – Environmental Science Awards: Owen Grace, Kenna Anderson
Flathead Lake Biological Station – Environmental Science Awards: Claire Gilbert, Noah Elliot, Keanu Ng
Flathead Electric Cooperative – Energy-related project award: Natalie Raymond
Flathead STEAM Alliance – All-Around STEAM Awards: Howard Fullerton, Noah Elliot, Kenna Anderson
Grow-Op Co-op Award for plant science project: Kellen Manning, Owen Grace
Grand Champion: Sage McElwain: Fantastic Frogs, Hedges Elementary
Reserve: Jack Tigue: Revealing DNA, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Adelyn Danley: Whitening Toothpaste, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Grand Champions: Darien Sibbitt: Twists and Turns, Kalispell Montessori
Natalie Raymond: A Simple Electric Motor, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Emrie Owings: Churning Butter, Edgerton Elementary
Reserve: Aivee Keiwatt and Skyluna Radatti: What Makes Ice Melt Fastest, Kalispell Montessori
Vincent Metallo: Vinny’s Egg Drop, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Ava Jones: How Many Pennies?, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Kaia Kane: Floating Eggs, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Demonstration, Model or Collection
Grand Champion: Hunter Keller: Owl’s Digestive System, Edgerton Elementary
Reserve: Leyton Clark: How Do Volcanoes Change the Land?, Pleasant Valley School
Grand Champion: Ingrid Aiken and Mia Lengacher: Bacteria Buddies, Kalispell Montessori
Reserve: Owen Grace: Water Me Weirdly, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Grand Champions: Cason Bost: Gears, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Myka McMullin: Muffin Man, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Frieda Watstein: Moo to You, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Howard Fullerton: Which Playground is Coldest?, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Reserve: Brooks Stanfield: Fun Flight, Edgerton Elementary
Liam Koel and Phoenix Nelson: Growing Gummies Kalispell Montessori
Max Jackson: Got Plastic?, Ruder Elementary
Deirdre Heltibridle, Emmett Jackson, Annie Joy and Hadley Edwards: Sweet Science, St. Matthews
Demonstration, Model or Collection
Grand Champion: Harseerat Sohi: Mag-Lev Train, Edgerton Elementary
Reserve: Chloe Luce: Cat Genes, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Grand Champion: Garrett Keim : Egg-cellent, Edgerton Elementary
Reserve: Henry Reichenberg: Does crown closure impact fire behavior?, Russell Elementary
Grand Champions: Ethan Victor: Chemical Balloon Inflating, Ruder Elementary
Josey Hackethorn: Snowpack Science, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Ian Martin: Magnetic Braking with Maglev, Elrod Elementary
Kyla Raymond: Boba and Beyond, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Reserve: Jillian Goodsell: Magic of PH, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Tessa Nichols-Pagel and Aurora Wyrick: UP!, Kalispell Montessori
Darcy Bauman: Visualizing and measuring Sound Waves, Hedges Elementary
Morgan Kelly: What Makes Ice Melt Fastest?, Edgerton Elementary
Carlamarie Seal: Boba Ball Invasion, Glacier Gateway Elementary
Grand Champions: Cash Hadley: Which Wheat Seed Germinates the Fastest?, Trinity Lutheran
Torin Moran: The Effects of Excess C02 on Prehistoric and Modern Plants, Columbia Falls Jr.
Reserve: Courtney Preble: Sandwich Situation, Smith Valley
Izak Emert: What do Perch Like More, Smith Valley
Grand Champions: Cole Schettler: How Much Sawdust Can you Put in a Rice Krispy Before Someone Notices?, St. Matthews
Cosy Young: Best Thermal Mug, Trinity Lutheran
Ada Thiel: Which Burn Faster?, Trinity Lutheran
Samuel Burns: Does Color Affect Tomato Acidity?, Trinity Lutheran
Reserve: Gracie DiMeo: Candy Rock Racin’, St. Matthews
Cristiano Wright: Color Coating It, St. Matthews
Raelynn Keller: Toxic Energy, Kalispell Middle School
Raquel Nieter: Poporama!, St. Matthews
Grand Champion: Jenna Kimble: Birdbrain: Can a Chicken Memorize?, Homeschool
Reserve: Kellan Manning: Turn Away Tillage, St. Matthews
Audrey Rasmussen: What Additive Will Preserve a Flower the Longest?, Trinity Lutheran
Meah Koppes: Everything’s Better with Butter, St. Matthews
Grand Champion: Abby Tonjum: Orange You Glad You Know This?, Smith Valley
Reserve: Aubrie Hagemeier: Rise to the Occasion, Trinity Lutheran
Jacob Linden: Lighten Up, Rock! Color change in beach quartz, Kalispell Middle School
Tyler Wright: Fizzzzzz Facts, Smith Valley
Grand Champions: Sophia Nieter: Don’t Get Caught Germy Handed!, St. Matthews
Abigail Harris: Discovering Desalination, St. Matthews
Noah Elliott: The Driveway Dilemma, Trinity Lutheran
Reserve: Alexander Ore: Does Dog Breed Determine Food Preference?, Trinity Lutheran
Madeleine Neumann and Lilyana Hutcheson: Bacteria Be Gone – Part 2, Trinity Lutheran
Jaylin Mitchell and Mia Candau: Bedtime Story, Trinity Lutheran
Layla Losleben and Elektra Morrow: Taste This!, Smith Valley
Grand Champions: Brecken Thorn and Logan Schwartz: Tame the Flame, Trinity Lutheran
Charlotte Young: Speed Dry, Trinity Lutheran
Reserve: Audrey Dartez and Thomas Alexander: Hot Lips, Trinity Lutheran
Scarlett St. Marie: Black Holes, Pleasant Valley School
Middle School (Grades 6-8)
Grand Champion: Josie Olszewski: Electrifying Battery Motor Project, St. Matthews
Reserve: Hailey Fiala: Fidget Bottle, Kalispell Middle School
High School (combined)
Grand Champions: Keanu Ng: To What Extent Does Habitat Type Impact the Nutrient Output of Vegetation in Response to Wildfire, Flathead High School
Kenna Anderson: The Effect of Levofloxacin on the Reproduction of Dunaliella salina, Flathead High School
Reserve: Will Robinson: How do visual images affect heart rate?, Flathead High School
Fallon Maas and Zoe Jacobson: Global Warming and Its Effect on the Growth of Corn, Flathead High School
Madison Stewart and Harper Omerod: Effect of Different Concentrations of Salt Water on Light Rays, Flathead High School