BARRINGTON – What started as a mandatory science project has become a chance for 11 students from St. Anne Catholic School to show off their knowledge at the State Science Fair.
For seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Anne, each school year begins with choosing a topic for their annual school science fair. There are endless categories to choose from, so there are opportunities for a project to interest everyone.
Donna Konie, the teacher who supervised all of the projects, chose 11 from the school to send to the regional competition. While she has had students proceed to the state championship every year, Konie said having eight projects and 11 students go this year is better than usual.
For three of the students, there were some even greater honors awaiting them. Eighth-grade student Orest Byskosh did his project on the Black Shoals formula, which predicts stock growth. He won Best in Category for Mathematics, for which he received a plaque and $50 prize.
Angelina Maestranzi, a seventh-grader, did her project in the vision and balance category. She wanted to see how balance changed when you looked in different directions. She tested gymnasts and non-gymnasts on a balance beam as they walked looking down, straight ahead, to the side, and with one eye closed. She found that non-gymnasts were more successful because they took their time, and their balance did change as they looked around.
Sean Dolan, an eighth-grader, worked on figuring out which golf tee height helped achieve the furthest drive. He built a golf club swinging machine to test the theory without depending on his own skills. He used Barrington High School's turf so his surface would be consistent. Dolan discovered that a 1.5-inch tee helped the ball go the furthest.
Maestranzi and Dolan were nominated for the Broadman Masters Award for being in the top 10 percent at the regional fair. The top 30 students in the country who have been nominated will win a trip to Washington, D.C., while the best student will win $25,000.
"I'm already going to Washington, D.C., in the summer," Maestanzi said. Her mom hopes Maestanzi will be able to go for free.
Dolan said he would probably buy golf equipment if he were to win $25,000.
The other St. Anne projects tested things that could be useful to the public.
Kayla Schutter and Emily Baer, both in eighth grade, tested whether traditional Advil worked faster than Liqui-Gels. Contrary to what most may think, they found that the traditional tablets worked faster.
Lizzie Graft, also in eighth grade, worked alone and studied behaviorial science by playing a memory game. She tested whether people responded better to pictures or words, and pictures came out on top 10 percent more.
Connor Abel, a seventh-grader, brought physics to baseball by testing whether baseball-bat weight affected the distance a ball would travel. He learned that if a bat was made of a lighter material, the ball would go further because the bat could move faster.
"I wanted to do this experiment because there have been a few pro baseball players who have been caught using those illegal materials, and I didn't know if it worked or not," Abel said. "I wanted to prove if it was worth getting caught for it."
Jack and Michael Ruth, brothers who are in eighth and seventh grades respectively, worked on a project to help their grandparents with septic tank problems. The project was called "Flushed Away," and they looked at which types of toilet paper dissolved the best. They found that Cottonelle breaks up well, and their grandparents have added that brand to their shopping lists.
The final group, made up of twin seventh-graders Jake and Mary Horcher, tested parachutes. They wanted to know which parachute shape fell the slowest, which would help keep skydivers safe. They discovered circular parachutes fell the slowest while rectangular ones were fastest.
Konie said she is proud of all of her students.
"We worked together every other week," she said. She helped them make schedules so they knew which steps of their projects needed to be finished first. She also helped them edit their research papers.
"It's more than just science," Konie said. They also learn how to speak publicly in explaining their projects to the judges.
All of the students will bring their presentations to the Illinois State Science Fair on May 3 and 4.