Smart kids, helpful parents mark Monroe Elementary's 10th science fair
JANESVILLE If you drink two bottles of Mountain Dew a day for seven days you will have consumed 1.5 pounds of sugar.
The best way to preserve an apple is with sugar or salt.
Finally, if your dad is an electrical engineer, you will know more about ohms in third grade than the average, college-educated newspaper reporter.
All of those lessons and many more were learned at Monroe Elementary School's annual science fair.
This year, the fair celebrated its 10th anniversary, a significant milestone for an event that takes almost three months to organize, features between 80 and 100 kids and requires about 20 consultant-judges.
Monroe Elementary School principal Lori Burns, who has been at the school for four years, still is amazed by the whole production.
"It's fabulous; the PTA really gives 100 percent," Burns said, looking around the fair in wonder.
Rows of folding tables divide the school gym into tidy strips of brainpower and creativity. Nearly every table features a giant, tri-fold display board featuring photos of the kids at work, computer-generated graphs and charts, and typed or handwritten information about what they learned.
"The kids get to pick a topic that's important to them; it's not an assignment they have to put together," Burns said.
Harry Kubiak, first-grade student and future aeronautic engineer, experimented with paper airplane design.
Kubiak, 6, took the classic science fair project to the next level, sending each plane through seven rounds of testing and creating a spreadsheet of his results. When praised for his hard work and commitment to the scientific process, Kubiak just grinned.
Next to him, his sister Sarah Kubiak, 9, showed how she used a digital multimeter to measure ohms, thus demonstrating which water was cleanest.
According to Webster's, an ohm is "the practical meter-kilogram-second unit of electric resistance equal to the resistance of a circuit in which a potential difference of one volt produces a current of one ampere."
Kubiak, speaking slowly and repeating herself, explained that the digital multimeter would react to particles in the water. The fewer particles, the cleaner the water.
Judges—they're called consultants because the fair is a non-competitive event—traveled up and down the rows, talking to the kids about their work.
Bob McCallister, geology professor at UW-Rock County, has been judging the contest for several years.
Like the other consultants, he's impressed by the creativity and mental engagement shown in the projects.
He sees students "following through a logical process." It's the "scientific process" at its most elementary level.
Dr. Bill Winkler, a family practice physician, was pleased to see how some families came together to help their children.
"I was really impressed by any kind of support the kids get at home," Winkler said.
Some siblings worked together on the same project. Sophia Dooman, 8, and Carson Dooman, 5, measured the amount of sugar in 18 sodas, sports drinks and other beverages. They illustrated their finding by putting the appropriate amount of sugar in the bottom of each bottle they tested.
Sophia and her mom, Renee Dooman, did most of the explaining, but Carson clearly knew what was going on with the project.
At the end of the evening, all of the students who participated received trophies with their names on them—tributes to their hard work, creativity and their science smarts.
A selection of topics from this year's Monroe School Science Fair:
-- Gravity brings me down
-- How fog forms
-- What makes a greyhound fast
-- Lifting with pulleys
-- Spit test
-- Did someone say flat bread?
-- Sugar vs. sugarless gum
-- Which pop is worst for your teeth?
-- How to make lava
-- Homemade slime
-- The coolest things about acids
-- Potato vs. liver
-- Rice static
-- You are a battery!