Bright young minds shine at science fair

Taylor Sansone, a seventh-grade student at St. Nicholas Academy, was one of 55 students who took part in the Catholic Enrichment Center’s first “Community Science Fair” on March 24. (Record Photo by Glenn Rutherford)

Record Editor

Some of the brightest young minds in the Archdiocese of Louisville were on display March 24 at the Catholic Enrichment Center’s first Community Science Fair.

Fifty-five students from grades five to eight in six local schools — St. Nicholas Academy, Nativity Academy, St. Francis of Assisi School, Holy Family School, Christian Academy and Meyzeek Middle School — took part in the contest. And several of the projects they displayed gave notice that, if the thinking displayed by these students is any example, the future may be in very good hands.

Take seventh grader Brandon Borgelt from St. Nicholas Academy, for instance. His project measured the heart rate of individuals who consume some of the ubiquitous energy drinks that are advertised almost hourly on television, radio, bus stops, billboards, you name it.

“I assumed before I started research that every time you took one of these energy drinks, your heart rate would increase,” Brandon explained.

That would seem to make common sense. But the results threw a bit of a curve ball at him.

“But when my brother drank a ‘Monster’ energy drink, his heart rate actually went down,” he said. “It was weird, and what I found out is that reaction to ‘Monster,’ ‘Five-hour Energy,’ and ‘Red Bull’ really depends on the reaction of the individual to the various ingredients.”

In other words, the drinks don’t all include the same things, though they all are heavily laced with caffeine.

One of them has 27 grams of sugar; another has no sugar at all. So, as in all other things in life, Brandon cautions moderation when it comes to doses of liquid energy.

“You shouldn’t drink them like water,” he said. In many cases, the drinks will, indeed, produce a more rapid heart rate. But not all the time; the science told him that.

And science, research and effort told Kate Jones of St. Francis of Assisi School that fracturing igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock surprisingly releases trace amounts of deadly gases — ozone and carbon dioxide.

So why is that of any importance?

“It has applications for the study of earthquakes, for the consequence of drilling and other geological activities,” said Kate, who speaks with an air of authority and confidence that belies her age.

“I’ve always been interested in the environment and in geology,” the seventh-grader said. “And I saw a University of Virginia study about the possible release of gases from rock. I wondered if ozone and carbon dioxide were, in fact, trapped in rock, and if they’d be released when the rock is fractured or crushed.”

Yes, they are, she found.

“We used a vise in a containment cabinet that we built,” she explained, “and we used an ozone detector that we were able to order from Denver. The different rocks produced the gases at different rates, but the gases were indeed released.”

Taylor Sansone, a seventh-grader at St. Nicholas Academy, centered her project on what she called “common sense” environmental practices. Her display was called “How do you stay ‘green’ and save money,” and she found a handful of ways you might.

“Take shorter showers,” she said. “Sounds simple but it’s true; conserving water is important everywhere and a lot of people, especially people my age, kind of take water for granted.”

She also suggested changing diets to include more organic foods, a step that “will help save the earth and provide you with a more healthy lifestyle.”

“And in the process you’ll probably lose a little weight,” she added.

Terriana Coleman from Nativity Academy centered her project on the density of liquids — using water, oil and molasses as her mediums. “I thought I’d be able to show that the density of a liquid would effect its weight,” she said, “and that if you put them into the same container, they would separate according to their density.”

And she was right.

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