Science fair a chance for young minds to shine

April 6, 2014

By Neil Pierson

New: April 6, 4:28 p.m.

Spring is typically a time when students in the Issaquah and Lake Washington school districts have a chance to let their scientific flowers blossom.

That was the case at Endeavour Elementary School last week. The plateau school, located in the Issaquah School District, had roughly 400 of its 660 students participate in its annual science fair, “Little Minds at Work.”

“It’s one of the biggest events we have here at the school,” said Jill Bengis, a member of the Endeavour PTSA. “The kids really look forward to it, and it’s a great opportunity for them to really shine and show what they can do.”

The school’s hallways and classrooms were teeming with life March 27 as organizers brought in multiple science-related groups to lead demonstrations and activities.

KidsQuest, a children’s museum in Bellevue, led magnet-related lessons. The Cascades Science Center Foundation sent its Science Squad to provide instruction on Kodu, a child-centered language for programming computer games. And Destination Science donated a free week of activities at its Seattle science camp to a raffle winner.

Susan Gardner, a 10-year member of the Issaquah Valley Rock Club, was surrounded by young children pouring over a wide variety of fossils, rocks and minerals.

Gardner said the rock club collects items throughout the year at field trips across the western U.S. The club was also sending representatives to science fairs at several Issaquah schools this week and last.

“We’ve got a lot of families, and we’ve got a popular junior program,” Gardner said of the club.

Among the rocks on display were a progression of quartz stones, including clear and rose crystals, iron-laden purple amethyst and orange citrine. There were petrified wood, clam fossils and obsidian, and unusual items known as gastroliths, “stomach stones” that helped dinosaurs digest their food.

“They’re very easy to find out in the Utah deserts because they’re polished and they just stand out,” Gardner explained. “They’re a different material. They’re round and everything else might be angular.”

The school’s multi-purpose room was packed with exhibits from all grade levels and a huge selection of topics.

Fifth-grader Christopher Teperdjian’s project tested the density of eggs using fresh water and salt water. He found that eggs are less dense than salt water, causing them to float, and are more dense than fresh water, making them sink.

Another fifth-grader, Samprikta Basu, studied the voltage levels of various fruits and vegetables in her exhibit titled, “I Eat Electricity?” She found potatoes to have the highest acidity levels, making them good choices for a battery, while pears were lowest in acidity.

Second-grader Kush Bhavsar found a formula for invisible ink, and gave instructions for writing a message in lemon juice and water, then heating the dried words with a light bulb to illuminate them.

Third-grader Ioli Shrivastava’s experiment, “The Leakproof Bag,” involved a lesson on polymers.

She poked sharp pencils through a plastic bag filled with water, and because the polymers in the plastic closed tightly around the pencils, there were no leaks.

Unlike other district events such as the Reflections arts program, Issaquah students don’t compete in their science fairs. Students presented their projects to an interviewer, but no scores were given.

“It’s just an opportunity for them to pick something and kind of explore it,” Bengis said. “It’s all for fun, and just to really build confidence and get them excited about science.”

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