Hilltop Montessori School holds annual science fair

MT LAUREL – Mark Underwood won Hilltop Montessori School’s annual science fair with his research about “Biofuels from Farm and Home Waste.”

Underwood said the presentation was an extension of studies of E. coli and radiation for previous science fairs.

“Winning this year with this experiment was pretty surprising,” Underwood said and added that he learned how fuel can be made from waste. “If I owned a farm, I wouldn’t even have to pay for electricity.”

Second place went to Catherine Hinson for her presentation about the effectiveness of different brands of toothpaste.

Hinson said the idea for her project came to her as she was getting ready for school one day.

“I do most of my thinking in the shower, and I was about to go to the dentist,” said Hinson, who stained pieces of tile then brushed them daily with various toothpaste brands.

There was a tie for third place between Caleb Chapman for his presentation, “Which stain cleaner works best?” and Chance Smith for “How does Molecular Spherification Work?”

The science fair on Friday, Dec. 1, had two components.

All of the school’s seventh and eighth graders participated in a judged competition, while fifth and sixth graders were given the option of competing.

Other students presented their findings during open house-style gatherings in their classrooms.

The judges for the competition included a cardiologist, retired educator and meteorologist.

Developing the presentations is a semester-long effort the students, who are required to follow the scientific method; present a hypothesis, purpose, procedure, data, results and conclusions, among other steps; and defend their work in questions from the judges.

Teachers gave the students the guidelines in October, and the work was all completed at home, as the teachers’ only assistance was offering suggestions.

“A lot of them have taken things we have covered so far and incorporated it into their projects,” teacher Sherry Cook said.

Projects included making electricity with a stack of coins, a homemade lava lamp, exploding gummy bears with potassium chlorate and many more.

Fourth grader Rachel Roberts tested whether her two cats had paw preferences.

Roberts said she found her experimentation, dangling a toy in front of them, was dependent upon the moods of her feline friends, one of which is named Parker.

“He didn’t have his food yet, so he just left,” Roberts said. “I had to wait until he had his food.”

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