Vail Mountain School gets scientific |

Vail Mountain School gets scientific

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyVail Mountain School eighth-grader Jordan Mesch, right, talks to John Harty about his science fair project "Stolen Sunlight," Monday at Vail Mountain School in Vail, Colorado. Mesch's project won an award for the most scientific project.

VAIL, Colorado ” It’s only appropriate that students at the Vail Mountain School chose science projects that try to answer questions about our alpine environment.

How does altitude affect blood oxygen saturation in humans?

What types of trees indigenous to the Vail Valley burn the longest?

How much solar radiation is lost from a point at the top of our atmosphere to the Vail Mountain School’s weather station, and who or what is responsible?

Wait, the Vail Mountain School has a weather station?

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Thanks to some forward thinking by then sixth-grader Jordan Mesch, the school has a weather reading device on its roof. It measures anything from rainfall to solar radiation to wind speed to humidity.

Jordan, now in eighth grade, didn’t build the machine, but he did convince his father to donate it to the school. He did it as part of an honors project last year, and this year was able to use the device for his eighth grade science project, featured in Monday’s Vail Mountain School Science Fair.

“He’s a very bright student,” said Brett Falk, a Vail Mountain School science teacher. “It’s great we’re able to challenge him this way.”

Jordan’s project was a challenge, both in time and research. He spent more than two months working on it, but used data gathered from the weather station from Aug. 5 to Jan. 4. The weather station reads data every 15 minutes throughout the day, providing 96 readings per day.

Jordan used 14,688 readings for his science project entitled “Stolen Sunlight,” which won the award for the most scientific project in this year’s science fair.

Who or what is stealing our sunlight is what Jordan set out to discover. His hypothesis ” part of the five-step scientific method that all students must use for their projects ” stated that most of the loss would happen because from cloud cover.

He proved himself wrong ” clouds account for about 28 percent of the solar radiation loss, he found out, not the two-thirds he originally guessed.

“My most surprising finding is that the tilt of the earth makes up for almost 48 percent of the total solar loss,” Jordan wrote in his conclusion.

The passion for all this solar and weather stuff is partly because of Jordan’s grandfather, a solar engineer and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Jordan has always been interested in his grandfather’s work, and when his family began considering adding a solar panel to the roof of their Vail home, Jordan wanted to find out for himself if the thing would work.

“Because of the mountains we get a lot less solar radiation,” Jordan said.

His family still hasn’t installed a solar panel, he said.

Falk said Jordan’s project definitely stands out, but so did many of the 70 seventh and eighth grade projects that decorated the school’s atrium Monday.

They were imaginative and creative, and some downright specific.

Angela Giovagnoli wanted to see which breakfast foods, when eaten with a glass of orange juice, would prevent blood sugar from spiking.

Taylor Washing tested incandescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs to see which one shines brighter. While the fluorescent isn’t as bright, seventh-grader Taylor said she thinks it’s the better buy.

“I still think it’s a better product because it saves energy,” she said.

That kind of thinking is exactly what Falk hopes the students get out of the projects. He said it’s an opportunity for each student to apply a common theme in school, the scientific method, to their own personal interests.

It’s always fun watching what they come up with, he said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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