Desert High students challenged by science fair

Students arrived at the Science Fair at Desert High School Jan. 31 after 24 hours of waiting to see how well they did on their projects. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber)

Students arrived at the Science Fair at Desert High School Jan. 31 after 24 hours of waiting to see how well they did on their projects. (U.S. Air Force photos by Rebecca Amber)

EDWARDS AFB – A sea of cardboard, tri-fold presentations filled the Desert High Scorpitorium recently for the Annual Science Fair. This year, there were 143 projects, some completed by teams. A panel of 25 community professionals served as judges for the fair.

“The Science Fair represents a lot of hard work and man hours,” said Mark Grubb, Chemistry and Physics instructor at Desert High School.

Charles Dobbin demonstrates his wind tunnel to another student at the Science Fair.

Charles Dobbin demonstrates his wind tunnel to another student at the Science Fair.

The fair is mandatory and counts as a test grade for students enrolled in chemistry, biology, anatomy and physics classes.

According to Debbie Lewis, Biology and Anatomy teacher at DHS, the science fair teaches students how to start a project and stick to it.

“It’s a pain in the drain because it’s a lot of work, but when they get done it’s like ‘this is my excellent project and I’m signing it with excellence.'”

Grubb and Lewis have been grading science fair projects for more than 16 years. According to Grubb, they “stage the process” giving specific dates for the project idea, abstract and final project and report.

He added that a good science fair project will rigorously follow the scientific method. They need to collect data, display it and develop a conclusion about the hypothesis and then see if the data supports it.

“We absolutely encourage people on base to help with science fair projects,” said Grubb. “This ought to be God’s gift to science and engineering and there are experts here that can help.”

He added that he would like to see even more support from the Edwards Community in the science fair.

“People need to know how to make rational decisions and follow logical steps to a rational decision that’s based on real, defensible data. Not based on how you feel, or what it looks like or that it’s sparkly,” said Grubb.

Lewis added, “The whole thing about the science fair is college prep. I take it personally when we have a kid that goes to college and they don’t do well. By the time they finish science fair projects they know how to design a project, how to collect data, how to control variables, how to analyze data and then apply it. And, in the meantime, they had to figure out how to use (Microsoft) Excel, how to use Publisher and how to do statistical analysis and write a research paper. That’s all stuff they’ll use in college.”

Charles Dobbin, Desert High School sophomore

Charles Dobbin

Charles Dobbin

Charles Dobbin received a second place ribbon for his project. He tested various air foils and observed their lift and drag coefficients, their stall angles and other effects on the wings shape during testing.

Dobbin tested the foils in a wind tunnel that he built for last year’s science fair project.  He built the wind tunnel with his father, a program manager in special projects at Edwards.

“It’s the same project that I did last year and I realized that there was a lot more that I could do with it. My dad and I started playing around with new stuff that we could do with it and we came up with a new way to mount the foils so that we could measure more,” said Dobbin.

He shared that he had learned the basics of flight in his ROTC class and felt well-prepared for the project. During his research, he gained a deeper understanding of the lift coefficient and how to detect stall.

Gabby Evey, Desert High School junior

Gabby Evey

Gabby Evey

Gabby Evey received a first place ribbon for her project titled, “Microbial Exposure Included in Gym Membership.”

Evey has been studying microbiology for the science fair since her freshmen year.

“My freshmen year I grew bacteria that I found in bathrooms. It was very much a freshmen year project, all I did was measure the amount of growth. My sophomore year I took it further and identified all the growth,” said Evey. “This year I found that, since I was an athlete too, this was something really prevalent to me. I was inspired by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers incident when three people got infected this summer from a training facility.”

This year, she went into public gyms in the local area and observed whether people used the available disinfecting wipes. She then swabbed the equipment for various bacteria and grew them in an incubator.

What she found was a direct correlation between the number of people using wipes and the cleanliness of the facility.

“People don’t really realize that by not using the wipes they’re exposing themselves to so many different types of bacteria. I identified Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which has been in the news all over, in NFL locker rooms infecting everybody,” said Evey. “Two Michigan high school districts this year closed due to MRSA infections and two students died.”

Evey received assistance from personnel at the Medical Group in identifying the bacterium.

Katherine Lott and Sabrina Belen, Desert High School seniors

Sabrina Belen and Katherine Lott

Sabrina Belen and Katherine Lott

Katherine Lott and Sabrina Belen called their project, “Here Comes the Sun,” another first-place project. The project tested the effectiveness of a helio tracker in comparison with a static solar panel.

The helio tracker is a solar panel placed on a platform that follows the sun’s movements to gather more solar energy than a flat or angled solar panel. A helio tracker is normally computer-operated.

The one that Lott and Belen tested requires no electronics.

“It’s just pressurized bottles connected by a tube which, when the sun would hit the two tubes, it would cause the two panels to move, sort of like a seesaw,” said Lott.

Lott and Belen received assistance from Lott’s father, a mechanical engineer at NASA. The final product ended up being one-ninth of the size they had originally intended and they tested it indoors.

If they make it to the county-level competition, Lott and Belen would like to build a much larger helio tracker and test it outdoors in the “real world.”

  2 comments for “Desert High students challenged by science fair

  1. Oscar Mejia
    February 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I would like to see more schools included in this program. I know there are other engineering facilities in the neighborhood that would love to emulate what Edwards Scientists and Engineers have developed; a well thought-out Science Fair.

    Oscar Mejia
    Lancaster City Council Candidate

    • February 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Fantastic job by the students. Congratulations to the winners.

      Oscar Mejia
      Lancaster City Council Candidate

Comments are closed.