Charter school sends six to state science fair |

Charter school sends six to state science fair

Scott N. Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyKarina Schorr, 12, with her science project called the Road Narrows.

EDWARDS – Curiosity can lead to great discoveries. Makenzie Mueller started wondering about how magnets are affected by weather when she first read about the possibility of a magnetic-levitation train being run between Denver and Eagle County. Those questions led to research, then answers, then a spot at state science fair in Fort Collins. Mueller, a fifth grader at the Eagle County Charter Academy in Edwards, is one of six kids the school is sending to the state science fair. The local kids are headed to state after a dominating performance last month at the regional science fair in Grand Junction.

Competing against kids from across western Colorado, the contingent from the local school racked up first place overall. The charter school kids also make up half the contingent the Grand Junction science fair can send to the state event.”I was looking at the other stuff and I was scared,” Mueller said. “One girl across from me tested sound and light waves, and she used lasers and a boom box.”But that girl isn’t going to Fort Collins.What attracts judges at science fairs is real-world applications, like how weather affects magnetic fields.

Another charter school student with a real-world project was the overall winner in Grand Junction. Karina Schorr, a seventh grader, took top honors for her project, which drew connections between road width and vehicle speed.With her mom as chauffeur and using a radar gun from the Avon Police Department, Schorr, a seventh grader, spent an afternoon checking vehicles’ speeds on three stretches of road in Singletree and Wildridge. What she found was that drivers tend to break the speed limit more often on wider roads than on narrow ones.Using a radar gun was a fairly high-tech way to test a hypothesis, though.For Mueller’s project, the test equipment included a spray bottle, a bucket of ice and a hair dryer. Using those tools, she found out that wind and heat had the biggest effects on the magnetic train she whacked down a length of track with a pendulum. The whacking ensured the train went down the track at the same starting speed every time.

Middle schoolers have to improvise in the name of science. Clint Hervert, another seventh grader going to state, had an idea – testing the methane-producing capability of leftover food compared to horse manure – and a dandy name: “Leftovers aren’t just for dinner any more.” But he needed a way to measure the methane.Capturing the gas from bottles of food and manure “slurry,” Hervert used a lighter to ignite the gas, then measured how long the methane burned. The cleverness and improvisation paid off.

The sheer number of charter school kids going to Fort Collins was a pleasant surprise to teacher Denise Unger.”We were up against all the schools in the region,” Unger said. “Paonia and Hotchkiss were there, and they’re known as good science schools.”This year, though, the charter school is a good science school. And for the students’ efforts, the science program and the charter school received a $500 check as the outstanding school in the region.

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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