By Laura Abruscato
Photos: Lesly Hall Photography
The spirit of scientific inquiry is blossoming among the students at Palisades Elementary School, as evidenced by their ninth annual science fair on Monday, Feb. 6.
One hundred and seventy-five students participated in the fair, all of whom made a tri-fold poster explaining the project they did at home. Each earned participation ribbons after talking to the scientists who served as judges, many of whom were Pali parents, from UCLA and Cedars-Sinai.
Why can kids and teenagers hear high-frequency sounds better than adults? Would people come to a full stop at a stop sign if they knew they were being observed? Can glass be made invisible using oil and water? What type of pan makes brownies with the best texture and taste?
These and many more questions from young scientists were answered at the science fair. It took an unusually long time for the scientists to choose the winners of the fifth-grade competition because of so many worthy projects, said organizer Kristy Morris, a biochemist and mother of Pali students Zoey and Kyra, and Rose, an eighth grader at Paul Revere.
Simone McClary took first prize with her project, “The Effect of Age on Hearing.”
“I heard a really loud, high-pitched noise. I asked my mom what it was and she couldn’t hear it,” recalls Simone, who tested family members from age 8 to 46 with high-pitched frequencies, and noted how their hearing declined with age. “There are hair cells in our ears that degenerate as we get older.”
She was also interested in the high-pitched ring tones that only kids and teens can hear and Mosquito, a high-pitched sound employed at locations where adults, who can’t hear the sounds, are welcome and teenagers are not.
Theo King finished second with “The Braking Point.”
“My mom and I drive in the Palisades and we noticed that cars would not stop at this intersection. I wondered if more cars would stop with a visible observer or a hidden observer.” It turned out when Theo was sitting on the grass at the corner of Via de la Paz and Bowdoin, more cars came to a full stop, and there were fewer cars that didn’t stop or came to a rolling stop, as opposed to when he hid behind a bench to record his findings.
Emmett Whitaker came in third with “Can I Make Objects Turn Invisible?” In addition to his poster, Emmett demonstrated his project using Pyrex glass test tubes and beakers and using oil and water to make the test tubes disappear inside the beakers. His interest in invisibility was inspired by “Harry Potter,” and his project showed how refraction makes glass invisible.
Robert Westerholm received an honorable mention for “The Brownie Variations,” which explored what impact various baking pans (glass, aluminum and metal) have on the taste and texture of brownies. “It was a double-blind study where the interviewer and interviewee didn’t know which was which,” he explained.
A group of 20 friends and family scored each brownie on taste and texture. Unexpectedly, Robert found that the brownies in the aluminum pan received the best scores, particularly in texture.
“The projects are so kid-centered and age-appropriate,” said principal Joan Ingle. “It’s nice that this year more students teamed together [to do the projects].” One kindergartner, Aayan Jain, presented “How Solar Energy Creates Chemical Changes” and created pictures by putting a box of raisins and other objects on sun-sensitive paper for various lengths of time on both sunny and cloudy days. “Scientists are curious,” said parent and stem-cell biologist Clive Svendsen, who assured Aayan that he was a scientist too.