Students turn scientist for fair

Ducks, hydroelectric generators, snow dumps are all fair game for JDHS's young science buffs

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2003

Juneau's few snow dumpings this winter provided skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snowmachining opportunities for many local residents. For Kacie Timothy, 16, they provided a science project.

"There were two major snow-deposit events this winter, before the one this week," said Timothy, a sophomore at Juneau-Douglas High School. She was one of 105 students who participated in the Southeast Alaska Regional Science fair held Saturday at the Marie Drake gym at JDHS.

Timothy used the two "snow-deposit events" to determine how Juneau snow disposal into Gastineau Channel affects metal concentrations in marine life - specifically, mussels.

"I found that there was a lot of variability between the different metal types," she said.

The judges for the fair - members of Juneau's scientific community assigned to judge projects that fell into their area of expertise - awarded points to each of the 90 projects entered in the fair. The 10 projects with the most points were then judged by a second panel of judges, who determined the grand-prize winners. The Juneau Empire had not received the names of the winners by press time.

The winners will travel to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Cleveland in May. There, they'll compete against more than 1,200 students for scholarships, internships, field trips and the grand prize: a trip to the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden.

"It's a really difficult job, because there are really high-quality projects and they're really good at presenting them," said Karen Schmitt, a geologist who was one of the first-round judges.

2003 is the tenth year for Juneau's science fair, which this year changed its name from the Capital City Science Fair to the Southeast Alaska Regional Science Fair. The name change reflects a change in the fair's status, said Anne Fuller, one 22 members of the fair's organizing committee.

"We're a regional fair now," she said. The regional fair status means that students will not have to compete in Anchorage before qualifying for the Intel International fair, as they have in previous years.

"Now, we're sending directly, which means Alaska will have more representation at the international fair," she said. Though the contest is open to students throughout Southeast Alaska, only students from Juneau competed this year.

The trip to Cleveland is one of several valuable prizes offered to students in the fair.

The University of Alaska Southeast offered a one-year tuition scholarship to one student; the Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners Association awarded a total of $300 in scholarships; the United States Forest Service awarded a total of $1,000 cash in five natural resources awards; Discovery Southeast awarded a pair of binoculars, guide books and a membership to Discovery Southeast. Several other local groups and individuals awarded projects.

Prizes were not the only thing students gained by participating in the fair.

"It's for a grade, but I found I really enjoyed it when I got into it," said Riley Hall, whose project had him testing the blade angle on hydroelectric generators. He now believes he could build a hydroelectric generator for his family's property on the Taku River.

"I think one of the real payoffs for kids is ... when they suddenly realize that of all the people here, they know more than anybody else in the room about their particular experiment," said Fuller. "It's a real boost to them. They realize they're learning things that are important."

The fair and the all-expenses-paid trip to Cleveland are primarily sponsored by Alaska Airlines, British Petroleum, Conoco Phillips, Wells Fargo, Cellular One, the Mendenhall Glacier Partnership, the Juneau School District, the Juneau Medical Center and Murray and Associates.

Several other organizations sponsored the event or prizes. More than 90 mentors and 90 judges also helped stage the fair.

Top ten point winners

(in no order)

• Aaron Katzeek: How pH affects the growth of fast plants.

• Nellie Olsen: Lichens as bioindicators of air quality in Juneau, Alaska.

• Andrew Pendleton: The effects of topography and vegetation cover on GPS location accuracy.

• Kacie Timothy: How CBJ snow disposal in Gastineau Channel affects metal concentrations in benthic marine life.

• Matthew Kern: How the presence of brewers yeast affects the concentration of copper in water over time.

• Carl Brodersen: Using the byssal thread production of Pacific blue mussles (mytilus galloprovincialis) as a pollution indicator.

• Carly Garrison and Lindsay Perkins: How distance from freshwater streams affects the distribution size of blue mussles.

• Spencer Miller: How the ranching of king salmon (onchorhynchus tshawwytscha) affects genetic variation.

• Heather Prentice-Walz: How past and present tree removal affects bird populations.

• Clay Werthheimer: How long-term exposure to crude oil affects the survival rate of amphipods.

Christine Schmid can be reached at

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