By Terry Beery and Jennifer Macke
The 2019 Los Alamos County science fair was held on January 19th. Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the fair. In judging for these prizes, we look for projects about the natural world, particularly ones that take inspiration from nature, make use of local materials from nature, are conducted outdoors, or aim to improve or understand the environment. There are usually several projects with these characteristics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes.
We enjoyed talking to the students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students, in turn, appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for all involved, and we encourage local citizens to volunteer as science fair judges.
Here are this year’s PEEC award winners:
This student was interested in better understanding global climate change. It is difficult to estimate melt rates of ice shelves, because most of the melting occurs under water. The student found a set of data taken by sensors near a major ice sheet. She documented the inward flow of warm water and outward flow of cold less-dense water and estimated the total amount of melt water generated over time.
This student was interested in the effect of global climate change on human health. She used data from Colombia to correlate temperature with disease morbidity. She then made an equation to extrapolate these data to higher temperatures.
How Will Feeding Earthworms Different Diets Affect Their Growth by Annabelle Rosette
This student put earthworms in cups with different food types: fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, or leaves. She carefully measured the weight of the worms over time, and she had very reasonable interpretations for the changes she observed. The worms that gained the most weight were those that ate fruits or vegetables.
Picky Picky Birds by Zoe Bent
This project asked a question that many birders have wondered: what kind of seed do birds prefer to eat? To answer this, the student tried putting out various types of bird seed in her backyard feeders. She found that mixed seed types were eaten more quickly than single types.
Wildlife Patterns on the Pajarito Plateau by Aditya Viswanathan
This student had photographs of wildlife sightings collected by a camera at a pond, and used this information to look for seasonal and other patterns in the visitation of animals to the site.
Dissection and Structure of a Bold-Faced Hornet’s Nest by Matthea Fung
This student made a careful examination of a hornet nest. The information presented included a very carefully-drawn detailed schematic of the interior of the nest, as well as photos and observations.
I Got Worms by Hyla McKown
This project examined the effect of various food and soil types on earthworms.
Judges for Next Year
Students appreciate being visited by several judges. They have their interests taken seriously and discussed with interested adults. Adults also can obtain a sense of what is occurring with science and math education in the Los Alamos schools. Please watch for calls for judges next fall.