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FAIR SHOWS STUDENTS' FLAIR FOR SCIENCE

Most people probably were outside Saturday enjoying the good weather when they could have been learning what metal heats up the fastest, what paper diapers and antacids work best, that lasers can transmit sound and how thyroid hormones affect the growth of tadpoles.

All that information was available as 72 fifth- through eighth-graders from six area schools displayed research projects and the results of experiments at the Niagara County Science Fair, held at Stella Niagara Education Park.

The second annual event was sponsored by the Niagara County Environmental Fund, Niagara University's Environmental Leadership Institute and the New York Power Authority.

Displays and experiments provided much fodder for any inquiring mind intrigued by science and how things work.

David Lilly, for example, is not satisfied to know that sound can be transmitted to his radio or television set through the air or fiber-optic telephone lines.

In his experiment, the seventh-grader from Lewiston's St. Peter's Catholic School was on hand to demonstrate that lasers can be used to transmit a voice or any type of sound over distances. In his small demonstration, he used a laser to transmit radio frequencies to a speaker.

"I'm communicating through a laser," he said.

On the consumer advocate level, Barker Middle School's Kayleigh Murray used the scientific approach to establish what name brand commercial diaper is more effective.

"I wanted to see which paper diapers could hold more liquid without leaking and absorb enough moisture to keep a baby's skin from being irritated," the fifth-grader said. Of the three name brands she tested, she found the Cottontail brand to be the most effective.

Zana Pearson and Johnna Bolender, two fifth-graders from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Niagara Falls, similarly tested antacids to see which one worked best.

Taking five commercial brands, they dropped doses of antacid in half-cups of vinegar and used red and blue litmus paper to tell which antacid would neutralize stomach acid the best.

Bolender said they used blue litmus paper to test the vinegar to make sure it was acidic enough before experimenting with each type of antacid. After the antacid was used, she said they used red litmus paper to see which antacid neutralized the acid best, a result they could determine by how blue the litmus paper turned. "Tums worked the best, according to our experiment," Pearson said.

Of the 55 projects on display, Stella Niagara's Anthony Cheff and Alec Curtis received top honors with the fair's excellence awards. Cheff's project was titled, "Does the Amount of Air Pressure in a Ball Affect the Distance It Travels." Curtis' project was called "Ice on Wings."

Thirteen other students also won excellence awards, along with special environmental project awards for their research. Those award winners are: Thomas Fiorica, Jordyn Holka, Matthew Ieraci, Alex Reynolds, Victor Sarmiento, Rebecca Siegrist, Katie Spavento and Janelle Stepien of Stella Niagara; Ashley Jenks of Barker Middle School; and Marina Laurendi, Kaitlynn Lester, Megan Sweeney and Ciara Roscetti of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The environmental awards were sponsored by Niagara University's Environmental Leadership Institute.

Twenty-one participants received honors awards and 20 others merit awards for their work.

Joseph T. Pillittere, Stella Niagara's director of institutional advancement, said the fair is being held each year "to let kids know that science can be fun and fun can be science."

"We want to create a situation where kids become aware of science," he said, "and possibly become interested in pursuing a career in science."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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