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Students experiment at Portsmouth High science fair

By   /   January 8, 2014  /   Be the first to comment

Science fair judge Bob Bonin of Amgen interviews sophomore Gabby Armin during the Portsmouth High School science fair Tuesday.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Science fair judge Bob Bonin of Amgen interviews sophomore Gabby Armin during the Portsmouth High School science fair Tuesday.

PORTSMOUTH — That old story about Coca Cola rotting your teeth?

It’s really lemons that you should be wary of, according to Portsmouth High School sophomore Gabby Armin.

For her science fair project presented at the school Tuesday, Gabby focused on “The Fight Between Acid and Teeth.” Contrary to what many people may believe, she learned from experimentation that citrus fruit is a bigger enemy of your teeth than soda pop.

“I wanted to see the effect that acid has on tooth enamel,” said Gabby, who got the idea for her project after watching a commercial for Pronamel on TV. “I got four different common acids (Coke, Sprite, orange juice and lemon juice) and then I used water as my control.”

Gabby took hard-boiled eggs — their shells mimicked the tooth enamel — and dunked them in each liquid for 96 hours, observing them every 24 hours for changes.

“After 24 hours in the lemon juice, the shells were already breaking down and coming off,” Gabby said. “I was surprised that the egg in the Coke did not disintegrate at all; it was just stained.”

Gabby was one of about 124 students in grade 9 physics first honors and grade 10 pre-advanced placement chemistry who participated in the science fair.

Kathleen Beebe, chairwoman of the PHS science department, said she was impressed by the students’ work. There was a buzz over freshman Claudia Yaw’s project, for example, which focused on “The Effects of Solar Activity on Cloud Cover.”

“That was something we’ve really not seen before,” said Ms. Beebe.

Portsmouth High sophomore Jackson Levine holds up a helmet that he used in his science fair project on concussions.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Portsmouth High sophomore Jackson Levine holds up a helmet that he used in his science fair project on concussions.

About 70 judges came out to review the projects. “We kind of put the call out. A lot of people from Raytheon and Newark came, plus some past parents,” she said.

One of those judges was Martha Costa.

“I’ve been doing this for about five years. It’s amazing with what they come up with. Every year it’s a little different and a little more in depth than the year before,” said Ms. Costa, who was particularly impressed with a project on diabetes that was completed by a student with the disease.

Another one she liked was Delaney Kellogg’s look at the effect of product placement in movies, a project that ended up taking first place for grade 9.

“I see movies a lot with my family. I really wanted to see how people respond to (product placement) because my brother always yells at the TV whenever he sees it,” Delaney said. “Do they want to buy the product afterward? Do their feelings change?”

Science fair judges Steven Barron and Laura Corvese listen to sophomore Amanda Larsen present her project on the efficiency of water heaters.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Science fair judges Steven Barron and Laura Corvese listen to sophomore Amanda Larsen present her project on the efficiency of water heaters.

For her experiment, Delaney gathered 20 people — 10 of each sex, half of them children — and had them fill out a survey recording how they felt before and after viewing a 10-minute collection of movie clips that contained product placements. She found that most people — up to 91 percent for men — do identify the products being placed in film scenes.

Another set of questions asked participants about their feelings before after after watching the video. “I found that 70 percent of the people changed how they rated hunger, fatigue and thirst before and after (viewing the clip). So that proved how their feelings changed,” said Delaney, who also found that 75 percent of participants said they wanted to own some of the products featured.

Synthetic vs. organic herbicides

Sophomore Tyler Miranda’s project studied the effectiveness of synthetic versus organic herbicides.

“My dad’s a landscape contractor and a licensed herbicide applicator, so I’ve been exposed to this all my life,” said Tyler.

Science fair judge Cynthia Perrotti interviews freshman Kristie Lee on her project on SPF ratings.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Science fair judge Cynthia Perrotti interviews freshman Kristie Lee on her project on SPF ratings.

He tested two organic herbicides and two synthetic herbicides on three different weeds — clover, chickweed, dandelions —  and compared the results, taking photographs of each stage of the process.

The results surprised even himself, as the organic herbicides outperformed the synthetic versions, he said.

“I thought it was going to be synthetic that was better, but organic actually did better.”

Freshman Emily Carver’s project was on how color affects a person’s heart rate.

“I became interested in this because I was wondering how people had favorite colors,” said Emily. “Some people, like me, like green because it calms me down. I wondered if heart rate was the reason why.”

She had four people sit in front of a group of colors and recorded their heart rate before and afterward.

“Overall, red, yellow and white were known to increase heart rate and that is what they did. Black decreased heat rate and blue unexpectedly increased it, because it was known to decrease it,” she said.

Hot dogs to wind turbines

Among the other science projects students came up with:

• Sophia Piffard tried to figure out the best reflective material to use when cooking hot dogs using solar power. (It’s tinfoil, she concluded, over copper and stainless steel).

• Wonder why most wind turbines have three blades? So did William Petty, who concluded that while four-blade turbines generated the most energy, a three-blade turbine worked more efficiently.

• Adam Barbosa’s experiment was to find out if music affects a person’s writing speed and, if so, which type of music made their pen work faster. He found that participants wrote at the fastest speed while listening to classical music and at the slowest speed to rap music.

• Erica Cates also studied different genres of music, but she looked into whether a particular type of music had any effect on heart rate and blood pressure. She found that listening to jazz and classical has a calming effect on blood pressure and heart rate, while the opposite occurred with heavy metal and hip-hop.

• Katy Newcomb investigated the cleanliness of restaurants on Aquidneck Island by taking taking sterile swabs of menus, forks and other objects and having the samples tested at Newport Hospital. You’ll be relieved to hear her results. “Fortunately, I was able to conclude the Aquidneck Island restaurants are indeed clean,” Katy reported in her project abstract.

And the winners are …

Here are the results from Tuesday’s science fair held at Portsmouth High School. Students who placed first, second or third will attend the Rhode Island Science and Engineering Fair in March.
Grade 9 physics first honors
First place: Delaney Kellogg for “The Effectiveness of Product Placement”
Second place: Grace Dooley for “The Clogging of Human Pores From Liquid Foundation”Third Place: Third place: Claudia Yaw for “The Effect of Solar Activity on Cloud Cover”
Honorable mention: Mary Stack for “Reducing Bacteria Growth in Household Sponges”
Grade 10 pre-AP chemistry
First place: Jackson Levine for “Comparison of Helmets”
Second place: Amy Drake for “The Effect of Spices on E. coli”
Third place: Matthew DePamphilis for “Biodiesel”
Honorable mention: Ryan Lee for “The Effect of Corrosion on Soda Can Materials”

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