Junk food, diapers and video games
EAGLE COUNTY – The music of Carrie Underwood, the country-souled American Idol sensation from Oklahoma, might lower your blood pressure.Sixth grader Tess Chapman tested her parents to figure this one out. She played them two-minute shots of rock, jazz, dance and country music then measured their blood pressure after each dose.The sounds of Shakira actually raised their blood pressure. Underwood’s soft and slow country songs brought it down.”A lot of people have high blood pressure, and they need to lower it,” Chapman said. “This isn’t medicine, but it doesn’t cost as much.”
Chapman’s project might be thoughtful, but it’s not a breakthrough. She already knows that calming music is often played in elevators, supermarkets, health spas and automated answering services.But science fair projects usually re-ask those simple scientific questions – questions already tested by professional scientists throughout history. It’s really the act of self discovery, of building a hypothesis and proving it, that make science fairs such an iconic part of the school experience.”They go through that scientific process and realize that experiments aren’t set in stone, and they have to use their problem solving skills,” Eagle County Charter Academy science teacher Jaymee Squires said. “This lets them analyze their own data and apply it to the real world.”Eight grader Jake Bishop wanted to figure out the toll his junk food habit was taking on his brain. “Would healthier food improve memory?” he asked.Bishop had a handful of volunteers wolf down a bag of chips, a soda, three double-stuffed Oreos and a White Castle burger. Then he timed them while they took a memory tes t- a set of 16 face-down playing cards that had to be turned over and matched.
The memory test was taken again the next day, this time fueled by an apple, a glass of orange juice and a side salad.”I thought the junk food would kind of keep you going,” Bishop said. “But they finished much quicker with the healthy food.”Bishop said he eats chips, donuts and Oreos when he studies, and probably still will. “I might change that before a big test though,” he said.Some experiments are really just for yucks. Eighth grader Dawa Sherpa said he had no particular reason other than curiosity for testing the effectiveness of three name brand diapers. He called his experiment “Diaper Dipping,” and as the name suggests, it involved dipping diapers in liquid and seeing which one soaked up the most.”Pampers did better than Luvs and Huggies,” Sherpa said. “I thought Huggies would have done better based on other tests I saw.”
Joe Sanchez, a sixth grader, tested the heart rate and temperatures of his friends after they played two different video games on Playstation 2 – NBA Live 06 and Mercenaries. The heart rates and temperatures were higher with Mercenaries, the more violent game. Sanchez expected that.”People get more involved in those violent games – it gets them excited,” Sanchez said.Hydroponics caught the interest of sixth grader Brittany Anderson. She asked if it could grow sunflowers better than soil, and in her case, it did. Flowers grown in soil had “shrimpy” roots, while the flowers grown with hydroponics were much healthier.”I’d recommend it to gardners,” Anderson said. “They’ll be able to grow more plants and not take up as much room.”The junk food and diaper experiments illustrate that it doesn’t matter if a student’s hypothesis is right or wrong. Having a test surprise you is a part of science, Squires said.Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.