District 11 students tailor learning to passions at STEM fair

By Olivia Koester

Staff Writer

 

More than 600 students presented projects at the Anoka-Hennepin District 11 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fair at Champlin Park High School Feb. 8.

Any student in the district, K-12, is eligible to showcase his or her work at the fair. Eighteen schools sent students this year.

Owen Eerdmans, a sixth-grade student at Jackson Middle School in Champlin, wondered how changing gears on a bicycle affects distance traveled. Photo by Olivia Koester

Owen Eerdmans, a sixth-grade student at Jackson Middle School in Champlin, wondered how changing gears on a bicycle affects distance traveled. Photo by Olivia Koester

The STEM fair offers a unique opportunity, according to Kevin Molohon, STEM fair coordinator and science teacher at Champlin Park High School. Generally unlike the homework that Molohon and other science teachers distribute in class, STEM fair projects are “authentic science,” he said. “There’s nothing [else] like this for them in the district.”

Students explored wide-ranging questions that piqued their interests.

Students studied how the temperature of a tennis ball affects its bounce, what kind of baking pan is most effective, what type of bridge is the strongest, how salt affects clay and more.

“This is one of the few parts of school where you get to pick what you learn,” said Connor Klemenhagen, a 2013 graduate of Champlin Park High School back to volunteer at the STEM fair. Klemenhagen is now at the University of Minnesota studying environmental science and engineering with scholarships he earned at state and national STEM fairs last year.

A STEM fair judge questions Erica Broxey, a freshmen at Champlin Park High School, about her research on afterimages. Photo by Olivia Koester

A STEM fair judge questions Erica Broxey, a freshmen at Champlin Park High School, about her research on afterimages. Photo by Olivia Koester

The district-wide event attracted nearly 300 volunteers, many of whom served as judges, evaluating students’ projects on their logical sequence and scientific thought, hypothesis, ability to describe their project and more.

For his STEM fair entry, popcorn lover Will Kielblock, a freshmen at Champlin Park High School, compared four brands of microwave popcorn, testing which brand popped the best. ACT II won marginally over Essential Everyday, Orville Redenbacher’s and Pop Secret.

However, upon closer inspection, the ACT II popcorn was really kettle corn.

“I think I probably should’ve chosen the same type of popcorn to make it more accurate,” he said.

Emily Everhart, left, and Vicky Vorobyeva, both freshmen at Coon Rapids High School, tested different hairspray brands to determine which ones hold curls the longest. Photo by Olivia Koester

Emily Everhart, left, and Vicky Vorobyeva, both freshmen at Coon Rapids High School, tested different hairspray brands to determine which ones hold curls the longest. Photo by Olivia Koester

After popping nine gallons for his experiment, Kielblock was down to one gallon in just one week.

“I just ate it 24-7,” he said.

Emily Everhart and Vicky Vorobyeva, freshmen at Coon Rapids High School, worked together to determine which brand of hairspray held curls longest.

They discovered that you get what you pay for. Kenra, purchased at a salon for $17, held curls 20 minutes longer than Herbal Essence and other brands more widely available.

“It just started out as a fun thing to do,” Vorobyeva said of the duo’s STEM Fair entry.

To select her topic, Erica Broxey, a freshmen at Champlin Park High School, thought about her career aspirations.

During a lull, Rachel Gasser, a freshmen at Andover High School, reads. Gasser’s project explored how treated water affects marigold plants. Photo by Olivia Koester

During a lull, Rachel Gasser, a freshmen at Andover High School, reads. Gasser’s project explored how treated water affects marigold plants. Photo by Olivia Koester

Broxey hopes to become an ophthalmologist someday, so afterimages, pictures that remain on the retina after staring at something, seemed like the perfect topic for her project.

“I figured this way I could learn about the eye and do it in a fun way with optical illusions,” she said.

Broxey hypothesized that the longer someone stares at a specific object, the more pronounced afterimages will be. The sixty surveys she administered supported her hypothesis.

This is Broxey’s first time participating in the STEM fair. She thought it would be a fun experience and would look good on college applications a few years down the road.

Students have the opportunity to compete in a regional STEM Fair at St. Cloud State University Feb. 22. The district usually brings two busses full, between 80 and 100 students, according to Molohon. Students can advance to state, national and international competitions from there.

 

Contact Olivia Koester at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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