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Science Fair

Young scientists strut their stuff at CASEF

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Students from Central Pennsylvania will compete in the 56th annual Capital Area Science and Engineering Fair this week with projects that investigate everything from food coloring and taste to invasive species in Central Pa.

CASEF, for which The Sentinel is one of nine sponsoring partners, runs Thursday through Saturday with more than 300 students from 50 schools in the seven counties surrounding Harrisburg gathering at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, located at 222 Market St. Harrisburg. Projects are organized into 15 categories and two divisions — Junior for grades 7 and 8, and Senior for grades 9 through 12.

Tim Ritter, CASEF Fair Director, said 180 science and engineering professionals will judge the projects Thursday and establish category and special awards.

“On Friday, three Grand Champions in the Senior Division and one in the Junior Division will be chosen based upon recommendations from the previous day,” he said.

The Senior Grand Champions will receive an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in Phoenix May 12-17. Ritter said students from more than 65 countries, every state and most territories from the United States will be in attendance at ISEF to compete for $100,000 in prizes.

Judges will have their work cut out for them this week as some of the projects look to set the bar exceedingly high.

“The projects we have seen are extremely high-caliber research projects that consist of applicable ideas and/or concepts,” said Samantha Moyer, the science program chair at Carlisle Area High School.

Some of the projects Moyer mentioned include using heat to charge cellphones, testing the health of the Conodoquinet Creek, and examining the effects of invasive species in local streams.

Christopher Irvin, an 8th grade science teacher at Eagle View Middle School in the Cumberland Valley School District, shared the same view for his school’s projects.

“One of our projects, ‘Take Me out of the Ball Game,’ contains a statistical analysis of the precedents to base hits in a baseball game,” Irvin said. “The researcher sought to learn the best time to pull a pitcher before giving up a hit.”

Irvin mentioned a list of projects that included “Do You Taste With Your Eyes,” which explores food coloring’s perception of taste, and “Time To Run,” which tests the efficacy of positive awards.

Other projects at this week’s fair include “Can Ugly Fonts Boost our Performance Level on Reading Comprehension?” by Meredith Brown of West Perry Middle School, “Arrow and Archery Flight” by Jacob Maddigan, of Harrisburg Academy and “Cola Can Catapult” by Fiona Sanderson of Susquehanna Township Middle School.

Young Scientists

Moyer said the originality of the concepts she has seen has been “phenomenal.” While projects are research-based and follow the scientific method, she said some of the projects are beginning to have applications outside of the science classroom. Students’ keen interest in the projects is something that surprised Irvin.

“The thing that surprises me the most is the passion the participants often have for their projects,” he said. “On television, teens are so often portrayed as aloof. It’s wonderful to see this stereotype broken.”

Irvin said the year began with teaching students an understanding of experimental design. In doing so, he said it enables students to create their own controlled experiment instead of pulling one from a book or off the Internet. All projects selected to represent Eagle View Middle School at the CASEF were designed by the students, Irvin said.

Carlisle Area High School also takes science fairs seriously and offers a wide array of tools for students. Moyer said her students receive assistance to ensure that all the required paperwork is completed correctly to avoid disqualifications. Students are also given facilities and equipment to assemble the projects.

“We do have assigned science fair coaches at both middle schools and the high school that deliver the necessary forms, encourage the participation of students in the various fairs and offer guidance if needed,” Moyer said.

Even if a student does not pursue a career in the science field Irvin said science fairs can provide memorable experiences. For those who are considering a career in the science field, he said the fair is a way for students to get on the path to the career they want. Moyer said science fairs are a unique opportunity for students, particularly for those interested in entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) career fields.

Timothy Dawson, president of the CASEF Board of Directors and the Director of Admissions and Enrollment Systems at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, agreed.

“It gives students the opportunity to pursue the scientific method and experience what it’s like to do independent research,” he said. “It also provides them an opportunity to be recognized for their scientific interests.”

For more information about the Capital Area Science and Engineering Fair visit


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