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Aspen students display scientific skills

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Eighth-grader Laker Mines works on his science fair project Friday afternoon at Aspen Middle School. (Jordan Curet /The Aspen Times)
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ASPEN Aspens public school science education showcased last month at the Aspen Elementary School science fair gets another public airing Feb. 12 at the Aspen Middle School science fair.Basically the entire school all 453 students in grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 has been in a frenzy of preparation, assembling project boards and putting together an estimated 380 projects for display in the school gymnasium and commons/cafeteria.Science teacher Brandy Von Weissenstein, organizer of the science fair, said it is being sponsored by the Aspen Science Center and that the ASC has offered a $50 prize to the best project in each grade level.Plus, she said, the ASC, in cooperation with Mountain Rescue Aspen, will be conducting a demonstration of what Mountain Rescue member Doug Paley calls how our local community applies science to real rescue applications.Paley and Kevin Ward of ASC will erect a block and pulley arrangement for a simulation of a rescue operation, lifting heavy weights with minimal force what Ward termed the the trapped-by-a-boulder situation.Our kids will show how a rescuer uses the simple physics of force and mass (and easy math) to calculate safety factors and mechanical advantage, and then devises a system to get the job done, Ward wrote in a summary of the demonstration.Among the experiments being created by the middle school students is a cloud chamber built and designed by eighth-grader Andrew Godfrey, as a way to test the behavior of cosmic radiation.Specifically, Godfrey said, he plans to demonstrate how alpha radiation particles are affected by magnetic force, using a common home magnet, some dry ice to generate the cloud and a source of radiation that will make trails in the cloud. He said the magnet does influence the particles, although not as much as a more powerful magnet would.Sixth-grader Elizabeth Nemer-ovski, a tennis player, will be returning tennis balls served by a machine at 52 miles per hour, testing whether she can keep the balls in-bounds.I love tennis, she said, although she declined to join her schools tennis team. She said her tennis teacher usually serves at a speed of between 40 and 48 mph, and her returns generally stay in-bounds, but she was not sure whether she could keep the faster balls from rocketing out of bounds.Hunter Ross, another eighth-grader, said he is growing four pots of wheatgrass and exposing them to different kinds of music to see if their growth rates differ. He is exposing three pots to music heavy metal, classical and country & western and one pot to no music at all as a control.All four pots are in different rooms but sitting on identical window seats, getting the same sun exposure every day, Ross said.Also in the science fair will be projects put together in Peter Hansons engineering technology classrooms, including: CO2-powered dragsters, designed and built by students to race down a 60-foot track at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. MindStorm Robots, built out of Lego blocks and programmable to complete simple tasks. A truss bridge designed using a Web-based program and then built using toothpicks and hot glue. And structures built of pins and straws to stand as tall as possible.Participation in the science fair is required for students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, Von Weissenstein said, but optional for fifth-graders.But everybody in the fifth grade is participating, she added.The judging of entries will begin at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, she said, and parents and the public will be allowed entry at 4:30 p.m.jcolson@aspentimes.com


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