Flexible Cement, Arsenic Soil, Math and a Pond...

It's the annual middle school/high school regional Science Fair! And, this year I was asked to judge the engineering category, as well as the Final Judge session for "Best of Show".

What fun I had. The Fair is held at the student activities center on the University of Louisville's campus, near downtown Louisville. Judges representing various disciplines come from a wide background of professorial types to the hobbyist to the person whose job is in the field of study. My engineering studies, combined with my previous field work using engineering principles, is what landed me in that category. Though most of the projects were mechanical or structural engineering, I at least understood the principles used in physics and materials. And, the importance of documentation :)

Mathin, the Flexible Cement young man, was a 7th grader who had poured a cement patio with his father, then experienced the dreaded cracking and hollowness of a badly done cement job within 30 days of the pour. Wanting to know what happened, he investigated cement and mixing and such. Happening upon a construction worker a few weeks before the Fair, he learned that mixing a fibrous material with cement keeps it pliable/flexible when dried. He experimented with various plant fibers and man-made fibers, then hit upon a mix of Home Depot cement with Sisal (plant fiber). He is now ready to re-do the patio with Dad this summer. He received 1st place in engineering and a special award during Final Judging. And, a quick remark from me about how adding rebar would make difference :)

Karey, the 6th grader who analyzed soil samples for arsenic was quite impressive. Her concern? Her neighbors in a predominantly Asian neighborhood had gardens close to the house. Which meant that the food was close to old decks and walkouts - made with pretreated lumber. So, does the arsenic in the pretreated lumber leach into the soil, contaminating the food items? Yepper, it does! Her methods were spot on, her documentation flawless, and her conclusions were well represented. And, her beautiful black hair pulled into adorable pony tails to the side of her wide eyed face didn't hurt either! LOL

Casey, the 6th grader who wanted to show that mathematical modeling was the way to go when to determine future effects of global warming and acid deposition in fresh water ecosystems. Holy Macaroni! Did this kid know her stuff? Yepper. She blew the socks of the Math Judges, then absolutely blew the socks off we Final Judges. Yes - she received the Best In Show. Turns out that she out-performed, out-calculated, out-did the seniors! Wow. And, her presentation skills were pretty good, considering she's a really short young woman with enough brown hair to cover half her upper body :) On a side note, loved her fashion sense of wearing long shoulder brushing diamond shaped earrings (picture 3" long), silver, with a black shift dress that had fun silver sparkles near the hem, and finished off with black tights and mary jane shoes. What a cutie! LOL

I'm signed up for next year, have almost convinced Rick to join me (engineering or environmental science) and will be recommending a few of my friends to the Director for future recruiting!


abeadlady said...

Are kids these days not absolutely scary they are so intelligent? In 6th grade I was just beginning to notice boys. Math, engineering, etc. were the very last things on my mind. What great fun you must have had judging these exhibits.

Lora said...

Wow what amazing children!!! Sounds like a wicked cool time you had.
BTW...thanks for the mail. :):) I set it in my Curio Cabinet.