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Science fair answers questions about (some of) life’s mysteries

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By Sandy Barnes

Will grass grow faster to the sound of music? Does playing video games increase a person’s blood pressure? Does a higher SPF level of sunscreen really provide better protection against the sun’s rays?

Those were among many questions addressed by students who participated in this year’s Mountain Area Science Fair. More than 200 elementary school students from Jefferson and Clear Creek counties displayed their projects at the fair held at Evergreen Country Day School on Saturday.

Standing beside his exhibit, Ben Stomper of Ralston Elementary in Golden said he learned through a series of experiments that using microwaved water on plants does not affect their growth. Ben used basil and marigold plants in his botany project, which received a first-place award.

Ben got the idea for his project from a friend who e-mailed him information about plants being nourished with microwaved water. He tested 60 plants using water that he had microwaved for 4½ minutes on half of them.

“I witnessed a plant moving in front of my eyes,” he said while watering one of the basil plants he brought to the fair as part of his exhibit.

Twins Blake and Shane Wickham of West Jefferson Elementary in Conifer each received second-place awards.

Shane explored the effectiveness of four levels of sunscreen in his project, “Fun in the Sun.” He concluded that SPF 50 sunscreen protects the skin far better than lower levels.

In his project, “Is Your Water Well?”, Blake tested drinking water from various sources — including his family’s well and his school — for bacteria, lead, pesticides, pH, hardness and chorine. While the well water he drinks is the lowest in bacteria, all sources had acceptable limits, his study found.

Blake’s mother, Barbara, said she’d wondered about the water quality at her sons’ school, because, she said, the water has an unpleasant taste. She was glad to learn that it’s safe to drink.

Projects dealt with a broad range of science from aerodynamics to chemistry, microbiology, zoology and physics. And many had practical applications.

Ryan Gale of Wilmot Elementary in Evergreen discovered that a double-wall stainless-steel container insulates liquids better than other materials. His project, “Cup O’ Joe To Go,” received a second-place award.

Using a hot potato, Taylor Jacobson of Parmalee Elementary in Indian Hills learned that fleece socks keep feet warmer than ones made of wool. Taylor’s discovery garnered a first-place award.

Zack Gacnick of Marshdale Elementary came to the conclusion that playing video games can increase a person’s blood pressure. His project also received a first-place award for its thorough research.

For those who are considering playing music to help grass grow, Nicole Mills of West Jeff Elementary found that it’s a good idea. And she had the grass to prove it in her exhibit, which received a fourth-place award.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.