A fair to remember

County students compete in annual science fair
Feb. 22, 2013 @ 11:44 PM

The annual Sevier County Science Fair was held Thursday in the Pigeon Forge Middle School gym, where 191 third- to 12th-grade students set up their diverse poster boards for 19 judges to critique.

The county-wide fair entries consisted of the top three winners from individual schools' fairs. Entries were judged by grade, with one or more categories, like biological sciences or physical sciences, for each grade.

"The middle grades go into more specific categories, so they decide which category they want to do," said Susan Howard, instructional supervisor of science for the school system. "The high school division, there's very few of them because the subject matter gets so much more complicated."

Howard said students start learning the scientific method in third grade, and the science fair is a way to apply the method outside the classroom.

"The goal is to teach students the process of the scientific method, to get them to know what they've accomplished from the beginning to the end of a project," Howard said. "What was the purpose? 'I had a hypothesis, and did I come to the conclusion I thought I would, or is it totally different?'"

The 19 judges, who ranged from school supervisors to community members with backgrounds in science, judged the projects based on creative ability, scientific thought or engineering, thoroughness, skill, clarity and dramatic value. Those are criteria of the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair, the regional science fair competition.

"Every year the projects get better, they get more detailed," said Randy Kincaid, instructional supervisor of English/language arts K-8. "It has to do with the fact that some schools don't require the science fair any more, so it's just what the kids want to do."

Walking through the gym, it's easy to tell the students enjoyed applying science to their own interests. A couple of projects contemplated the dynamics of flight by observing the paths of different paper airplane designs.

One fifth-grader mined the relationship between osmosis and hot dogs. The purpose of the project was to see if the packaged meat would become "mummified" if submerged in baking soda in airtight containers. After 16 days, the hot dogs lost enough moisture to change their length, circumference, texture and smell — "so much so that we placed Vicks VapoRub under our noses to mask the smell," the student's conclusion read.

Another student measured the effects of three different genres of music — hard rock, classical and pop — on a dog's behavior. The student's dog, Chance, listened to 30 minutes of each genre, and the student noted any changes in behavior.

According to the student's conclusion, Chance was restless during the hard rock session, but relaxed "and even fell asleep for a little while" during the classical music session. In accordance with the student's hypothesis, the pop music had no effect on the dog's behavior. "He just acted like a normal house dog."

rhargett@themountainpress.com