Local Students Win at Science Fair
BY SCOTT BIGELOW
Special to The Pilot
Contestants and their families spent a long and exciting day on Feb. 11 at UNC Pembroke's Science Fair.
The contestants, from as far away as Harnett, Moore and Columbus counties, toured campus, ate in the cafeteria and were entertained by Rick Brown's "Science Adventures," while the judges reviewed the 133 entries. This was the 31st annual Region IV Science Fair held at UNCP.
Many like the Shuler family, mother Amy and her four children, were attending their first science fair. They were in for treat.
"We were watching the women's basketball team practice, and they shared cupcakes with us," Amy Shuler said. "That was so nice of them."
Elizabeth Shuler, whose father is an ophthalmologist in Pinehurst, entered a project that asked the question: "What color do you see first in peripheral vision?"
"I did it over Christmas with all my aunts and uncles," she said.
Elizabeth's mother was pleased with the day.
"It was a long day, especially for the baby, who didn't get a nap," she said. "UNCP does a good job with this."
Mihayle Clawges, a fifth-grader from Highland Elementary School in Harnett County, asked the question: "Does playing violent video games raise blood pressure and heart rate?"
"I tested 13 people between the ages of seven and 45," she said.
Clawges, whose trifold was decorated with ribbon, advanced to state competition. It was the first Science Fair for Mihayle and her mother, Mary, who brought their high school-aged son for a look at the university.
"It was the first time anyone from our elementary school entered the science fair," Mary said. "She got some good pointers from the judges. I will have two children entered next year."
Jennifer Pratt, representing Long Hill Elementary School in Cumberland County, got the idea for her project after a diaper failure. She asked: "What brand holds the most fluid?"
"My project took up our dining room for a month," Pratt said. "The brand that won had the most polymers. A polymer is a substance that has similar molecular patterns."
It was the first science fair for Davita Brockington, a third-year chemistry major at UNCP. She said she likes kids and science and thought it would be a good way to spend a Saturday.
"My favorite was an elementary school project that tested which material hit a baseball the farthest," she said. "They were all excited and enthusiastic. Some of the kids were shy, and with others, you only had to ask one question and they told you everything about their project."
For Ann Talkington, a senior from Massey Hill Classical School in Fayetteville, it was her third trip to the science fair. She was the overall winner on her first try and won the Senior Engineering and Technology Division and several other awards this year.
"I'm back with a new project," Talkington said. "My other project was washed down the river, so to speak."
Talkington had been studying water quality in the Hope Mills Lake when the dam burst. In contrast, her new project is entirely theoretical.
"I developed a mathematical equation that models the population growth of microbes," she said. "I've been working with Dr. Len Holmes."
Holmes, who directs UNCP Biotechnology Center, said he spotted Talkington as an outstanding student three years ago. He discussed her project.
"In her calculus class, she learned about some of the mathematical properties of a particular formula called the MacLaurin Series and adapted to study the rate of growth of symbiont bacteria," Holmes said. "It is very unique in that she uses an analytical approach, where as conventional methods use more subjective estimations.
"Calculations done with Anne's modified formula were in very high agreement with calculations done the old-fashioned way," he continued. "Her work is significant because it may help microbiologists quantify environmental effects on population growth. We are now writing her work for submission and publication."
Chris Lane, who spent seven weeks in a Duke University lab last summer, won the grand prize at the Region IV Science Fair. A student at Jack Britt High school in Fayetteville, his project analyzed protein and ligand interaction.
Anna Kuzma and Dylan Lawson, both students at West Pine Elementary, were winners in the elementary division and will advance to state competition.
Myatt Person, a student at North Moore High School, took first place in biological science A.
Matt Person, of North Moore, won the Dr. Dalton Brooks Award, sponsored by the department of chemistry and physics.
Scott Bigelow works in the communications office at UNC Pembroke.
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