Draper students excel at science fair, three invited to apply to nationals
Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair award presenter Morgan Barron presents American Preparatory Academy’s Dylan Bolman with a special award from the Leonardo. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
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St. John the Baptist sixth-grader Jacob Anderson goes bananas over science — literally.
His project, “Going Bananas for Science,” not only earned him first place at the regional Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair, but is also keeping him busy with the invitation to apply to the National Broadcom Science Fair.
At the end of the school year, he was preparing to begin the application process, which included not only outlining his project, but also writing three essays.
Jacob isn’t the only Draper student to be invited to apply. His schoolmate, eighth-grader Keegan Gilbert, and American Preparatory Academy’s Rachel Maxfield also received the invitation.
Fair Manager Jody Oostema said that 41 projects, or the top 10 percent of the Salt Lake Valley fair, receive invitations. From there, it is narrowed to about 300 semifinalists nationwide.
“We usually have two to six students reach semifinals and a few in the finals,” she said. “We’ve seen some new innovative ways to solve problems. It’s an impressive fair and sometimes I’m just blown away with what students come up with.”
Jacob said his project, testing for the best way to store bananas, was inspired by wanting to keep them fresh the longest.
“My neighborhood has a summer block party and bananas are my favorite snack so I want to take them, but I don’t want them to spoil beforehand,” he said.
So, Jacob took over his family dining room for two 15-day periods to test bananas wrapped in various common kitchen materials — plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil, paper bags — and not wrapped. Knowing hot or cold air would be a factor, he kept the air temperature consistent and charted his data.
“The one without any storage was completely black, but the one tightly wrapped in plastic wrap only had a few little brown spoilage spots. You could eat it. My hypothesis that the paper bag would be the best was wrong, but I learned you don’t always expect what will happen will happen and you just have to look at the data to understand why,” he said.
His biology and biochemistry elementary division project advanced him from the Diocesan Science Fair in February to the regional fair in late March to be considered for Broadcom.
“I was really surprised. There was so much clapping, I could hardly hear my name. I had so much adrenaline. It was just amazing,” he said.
Keegan won first place with his project, “Going the Distance,” in the junior division physics, astronomy and math category.
“I’m big into sports and remember hearing a sports commentator say that it’s easier to hit a homerun at a higher altitude, so I decided to test it,” he said.
Keegan created a tennis ball launcher and tested it at eight different times in three different altitudes — Draper, Las Vegas — which is 2,000 feet lower than Draper — and San Diego, which is 4,000 feet lower.
When he presented his findings to the regional judges, he was surprised.
“The judges asked some pretty complicated questions I hadn’t heard at the Diocesan fair. It made me connect things and think on my feet. This was my first time doing science fair. I had heard some friends in public schools say they were doing it so it’s something I really wanted to experience,” he said.
St. John’s Natalia Cyriac, who built a calorimeter to measure calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins, said her project, “Burning Calories,” has helped her overcome shyness with presentation skills.
“It was scary the first time I did it, but I got a little more used to it as more judges came around,” said the honorable mention medalist. “I’d like to do it next year.”
Oostema said that this year, Salt Lake Valley’s 15th annual fair had 724 elementary through high school participants, a record number of students, with 57 percent being female. That is an increase of about 500 students since 2005 and the number of projects this year is up from 16 last year to 573 this year.
In addition to private and charter schools, the fair includes public school students from Salt Lake, Granite, Murray, Tooele, Park City and Canyons school districts.
Other Draper winners include Channing Hall students Nithya Mahasenan, Anika Balakrishnan and Shelby Whatcott, first-place junior division in civil and environmental engineering category with the project “H2Whoa”; and Kyle Holland, Gabriel Hillesheim and Kolton Hauser, third place in junior division electrical engineering and computer science category with the project, “Go iNet?”
Winners from American Preparatory Academy include Rachel Maxfield’s first place in junior division mechanical engineering category with “Wheeling Water”; Dannion Nelson’s second place in junior division mechanical engineering category with the project, “Automatic Dog-feeding Machine”; Keyan Adams’ second place in senior division mechanical engineering category with the project, “The Elimination of Catching Edges for Beginner Snowboarders”; Dylan Boleman’s third place in the elementary division of physics, astronomy and math category with his project, “Visual Sound”; Tiara Tuttle’s fourth place in the junior division of the behavioral and social sciences category with her project, “Auditory EGGsperiment Culmination”; Tammy Phung, honorable mention in elementary division of chemical and physical energy category with her project, “Heat Absorption”; and Enoch Esobar, honorable mention in elementary division mechanical of engineering category with the project, “Water Bottle Rockets.”
Juan Diego Catholic High School had three student winners: Jonathan Waung’s first place in senior division chemistry category with “Chemistry on Carbon Neoparticles”; Elainna Ng’s second place in senior division behavioral and social sciences category with “Effects of Diet-Induced Binge Eating on Behavioral Control of Feeding”; and Jessie Zhu’s third place in senior division medicine and health sciences with “Preclinical Evaluation of Cannabidiol for Seizures and Comorbidities.”
Special awards were given to several students, including Enoch Escobar from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Mason Buxton from the Air and Waste Management Association;, Dylan Boleman from the Leonardo, Rori Phibbs from the Neuroscience Initiative, Darshan Shimpi from the Society for In Vitro Biology, and Rachel Maxfield and Elainna Ng from the U.S. Navy.