Five students with science fair projects at Adams Central Junior/Senior High School achieved success on many levels this year.
Last week, three students attended the Regeneron 2022 International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta.
Jenna Cecrle, a junior, Hannah Gengenbach and Irelyn Samuelson, both sophomores, presented two projects at the fair, which included students from around the world. These were two of three projects that won the opportunity at the Central Nebraska Science and Technology Fair on March 2 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Cecrle studied the impact of prednisone on the body length of fruit flies.
Due to her asthma, she started taking prednisone in sixth grade. During her seventh grade physical, her doctor noticed a decrease in her growth rate and thought it might be due to the medication. This experience prompted Cecrle to initiate the study and she found that the drug had an effect on fruit flies.
She said the judges offered new resources to consider, although the draft could not be changed between competitions.
“As you go through the judging process, you keep learning things,” Cecrle said.
Gengenbach and Samuelson received similar advice during their interviews with the judges at Kearney.
“They gave us a lot of good advice on what we could do better,” Samuelson said. “They’ve had a lot of good feedback.”
Sophomores studied the effects of e-cigarettes on fruit flies. They wanted to study the subject because a national survey found that almost one in four young adults consider them harmless and non-addictive. Given the popularity of vaping, they thought this would be good information to research and share.
“It’s really common for people in our age group,” Samuelson said. “A lot of people don’t really think it’s that bad.”
After completing their experiments, Gengenbach and Samuelson discovered that fruit flies exposed to electronic vapor may have undergone a genetic mutation that caused them to turn green.
The judges suggested that the color change could be caused by bacteria in the flies’ stomachs and that the steam could cause problems with their digestive systems. They found that the discoloration was passed on to the next generation and continued for three generations.
While traveling to Atlanta for the International Fair, Gengenbach said she enjoyed the pin exchange, where students designed pins to represent their school and exchanged them with each other.
“My favorite part was meeting people from all over the world,” she said. “It was very fun.”
Closer to home, three Adams Central students have won spots to participate in the 2022 Junior Academy State Science Expo after placing in the top six at the 2022 Central Regional Science Expo. ‘academy.
Sophomores Dylan Janzen and Nick Conant investigated the possibility of building a solar panel using recycled solar cells.
“We thought working with solar panels would be cool,” Janzen said.
Conant said the goal of the project was to reuse solar cells and make them work. They ran the recycled solar cells and measured an efficiency of around 7%, which is comparable to the 15% efficiency of the new panels.
“We really had no knowledge of how solar panels work, so we had to learn,” Conant said. “It was a rewarding feeling to be able to make it work.”
Conant and Janzen entered the project in the state competition on April 21 in Lincoln, but did not rank as highly as they would have liked.
“It was more of an engineering project,” Conant said. “It felt good to be there.”
Serese Janssen, a junior, examined how the number of airplane propeller blades affects efficiency. When she was selected as one of the top six projects in the regional event, she realized that her efforts were similar to those of aviation scientists.
“I could be one of those people that I looked up to as a kid,” she said.
Janssen wants to become a pilot and decided to learn more about the aerodynamics and mechanics behind taking off and keeping planes on the ground.
She taught herself how to use a 3D printing program to build custom propeller blades. She then used an airstrip to test the efficiency of the various propeller blades.
In the state competition, Janssen secured a place to present her research in March 2023 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Junior Academy of Science in Washington, D.C.
She enjoyed the state competition and saw the projects submitted by other students.
“It’s like being part of a big scientific group,” she said. “I liked meeting new people. I know I’m doing something that could make a difference.
She said the school’s willingness to invest in the technology needed to carry out such experiments made her project possible. Without the school’s 3D printer, she wouldn’t have been able to take on the project.
Jay Cecrle, a science teacher at Adams Central, said the school has done a really good job of providing students with the resources to pursue science fair projects. He said students learn a variety of skills in preparing and presenting projects.
Cecrele also applied for and received grants for additional supplies. In March, he received supplies from the Society of Science as one of 95 science teachers who received a total of $135,000 in grants for underserved and underrepresented communities across the country.
Included this year were trail cameras, a water monitoring kit, a soil testing kit, a remote weather sensing device and a smartphone-controlled paper plane with an engine.
Cecrle said the variety of testing and monitoring equipment allows students to have a range of options when deciding which project to pursue.
“I always let my kids choose what they want to do,” he said.