Monday, March 17, 2014
It's "Mad Science" at Lehigh Valley Science Fair
For more than twenty years, Lehigh University has made it possible for high school and middle school students from all over the Lehigh Valley to showcase their love of science at an annual science fair. This year, 281 students participated with some pretty amazing experiments in the annual Lehigh Valley Science and Engineering Research Fair at the Rauch Field House, conducted March 14-15.
How about a vehicle that runs on nothing more than recirculating water? Parkland's Atharv Gupte has done it through the use of magnetic energy. Problem. His vehicle only travels 3.71 cm/sec. He's still working on the need for speed.
Think that's cool?
Well, Becahi's Austin Sanders has concentrated his prodigious intellect on the pop-ability of popcorn, noting all those unused kernels that break teeth. His conclusion? "Movie theaters will make more money if they hydrate their popcorn."
Just how much do caffeine and alcohol affect our heart rates? Pretty much, according to Emmaus High School's Jacob Licker. Caffiene sends it up there to 112.13 beats per minute, while moonshine (ethanol) sends it down to 53.3.
Which bridge would be safest for Gupte's 3.71 cm/sec magnetomobile? According to Orefield Middle School's Alexandra Fry, it would be a truss bridge. Using popsicle sticks, she built a variety of different kinds of bridges, including suspension and beam bridges. Then she subjected them all to heavy loads of sand. The truss bridge held up best.
One student, St. Theresa's Kevin Yusella, had a science fair exhibit, but baseball is on his mind. His experiment, "Dominant Distance," determines the optimal leg position for throwing a baseball the longest distance. After countless experiments measuring distances with different stances, Yusella's scientific opinion is that the crow's hop is the best way to get a baseball from deep center into a catcher's mitt. Numerous coaches have always preached that, but now science is on their side.
With this Winter's bitter cold weather, ice storms and salt shortages, Becahi's Maria Macaluso experimented on different substances that might prevent ice from forming on your sidewalk. Her conclusion? Stick to salt. Sugar does not work.
One young man, Valmiki Kothare from Orefield Middle School, is very interested in how the brain works behaviorally and studied differences between man and women as well as three different age groups. Using 63 subjects and 315 data points, his conclusion is that children (under 21) have a better sense of hearing and touch, while young adults (ages 21-59) have the best sense perception overall.
Believe it or not, there was even a science project dedicated to blogs. Parkland's Mugdha Gupta studied whether negative comments posted by trolls tend to make people disbelieve the article in question. Her conclusion is that they do, although she cautioned that she only used 15 test subjects.
Is this mad science?
"No science is good science unless it's mad science, answered Lehigh's Jennifer Shah. She, along with Mike Keener and Arianna Caruso, wowed the students with some crazy chemistry experiments, including foam eruptions and the production of slime.
Robert Haines, the LU alumnus who both founded and helps fund this event, calls it a "labor of love". Angela Nicole Scott, Lehigh's Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach, was able to juggle students, anxious parents and over 100 judges from local colleges and the corporate sector.