Local News

Science projects range from lasers to language

AVON PARK - Sebring Middle School seventh-grader Robert Spoone shined lasers through gelatin for his science project to measure the angle of diffraction.

In science class he learned that the amount of diffraction varies according to the wavelength of the laser.

Spoone was among 126 Highlands County middle school students facing the science fair judges Wednesday at Avon Park Middle School.

District science specialist Cathy Hardesty explained that each middle school held a science fair with a total of about 500 students competing. The science projects that received a 90 or above on the 100-point evaluation scale advanced to the district level.

Tech resource teacher and former science teacher Susan Harris, and Avon Park biology teacher Jenna Hancock were paired to judge 25 biology-related projects.

The teachers questioned Sebring Middle School student Emily Lethbridge about her project.

Lethbridge explained that she was taking a Spanish class and wondered whether adults or children were quicker at learning a new language. She used flash cards to teach 10 words in Spanish to fourth-graders, eighth-graders and adults and then tested their recollection of the words the next day.

Her experiment showed that the adults had a much better recollection of the Spanish words.

Harris and Hancock told Lethbridge that her experiment was "very good" and "very well thought out."

Spoon offered some details about his experiment.

He purchased three laser pointers, in red, green and blue, from eBay to conduct his experiment.

The lasers were placed in the cracks between tiles on the floor in his home and then Spoone measured the angle of diffraction with a protractor

Spoone said making the gelatin was the lengthiest part of his project.

"That took about two hours, I believe, but the actual project only took about 30 minutes to get all of it setup," he said.

Lake Placid Middle School eighth-grader Christopher McDonough measured the level of iron concentration in tap water and filtered water.

He used different types of materials for his experiments. He substituted steel wool for iron and measured it with a color coded reservoir.

"My hypothesis was proven correct and filtered water has less concentration of iron in it than tap water," McDonough said. The filtered water is healthier for your body because it has less iron.

Hardesty was impressed with the projects.

"It's amazing; very creative," she said. The experiments involved, "things I personally would not have thought of, but they've done a great job."

She likes that the students were allowed to choose their own topic because sometimes at the elementary level students have to choose from a list, Hardesty said.

Parents can view the projects at 5 p.m., Friday, during an open house followed by the awards ceremony at 6 p.m. at Avon Park Middle School.

Hardesty said, "I would expect that several of these projects will qualify to go to regional, which will be held at the end of February at South Florida State College."

About 300 projects will likely qualify for entry into the six-county regional science fair, she added.