Young scientists impress judges during regional fair

Feb 1, 2013 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Hundreds of students from Fremont County joined their peers from around the region Monday at the West Central Regional Science Fair at Central Wyoming College.

The group, including many students from Riverton, spent the day at the Robert A. Peck Arts Center, explaining their projects to judges who asked questions about scientific theory and real-world applications of knowledge.

Michaela Kechter, a freshman at Riverton High School, spoke about her project "Bac ... to the Teria" with judge Cheryl Coleman, a CWC alumna with plans to become a science teacher. For her experiment, Kechter wanted to determine the best way to reduce bacteria on sponges and dishrags.

"It seemed the most interesting," she said of her topic, adding that boiling was the most effective method she tested.

Kechter has never been to the regional science fair, but she said she wasn't nervous about the higher-level competition. Participants at Monday's event were the winners of their school-based science fairs.

"They ask more questions (here)," she said. "But it's pretty much the same."

Coleman said she was gaining valuable information about her future profession at the event.

"I'm judging biology projects, and I'm going to be a biology teacher for middle schoolers or high schoolers," she said. "This is a great opportunity to interact with students and teachers."

Judge Ruth Law, a science student at CWC, had several questions for Wind River High School sophomores Alex Kini and Aspen Stagner, who had studied the effects of colored lighting and varied temperatures on chicken eggs.

"We did two separate experiments," Kini explained. "First we changed the color of the lighting."

When that variable didn't change the number of chickens hatched compared to their control group, the girls moved on to temperature.

"We knew the colored lighting didn't affect incubation, so we wanted to know what did," Kini said.

In the end, they determined that colder conditions are not good for chicken eggs.

"We took the recommended temperature and lowered it five degrees," Kini said. "We had two fewer eggs hatched."

Law asked about the research they did before conducting their experiment, then asked the students about real-world applications of their work. Kini said the information would be valuable for chicken farmers.

"They should know not to go below 99.5 degrees," she said. "To hatch more eggs, keep them at 99.5 degrees."

The volunteer judges said they enjoyed Monday's experience. Tom Axthelm, a civil engineer from Riverton, said he was having fun talking to the students about their projects.

"It's great," he said. "The kids put a lot of work in."

He said it would be difficult to decide which students should progress to the 2013 Wyoming State Science Fair, which is scheduled to take place March 3 to March 5 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

"We'll score them and see how the numbers come out," Axthelm said.

Results from the regional event will be available next week.

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