Student-Scientists Shine at 2017 DMPS Science Fair

Girl wearing glasses

A total of 230 middle and high school students participated in the 9th annual DMPS Science Fair, held at the Science Center of Iowa.

It’s set-up time at the 9th annual District Science Fair. Exhibitors are streaming into the Science Center of Iowa with their trifolds and duct tape. They don’t look like scientists, snarfing snacks and plugging the gumball machine in the lobby. Many dress smartly, just like the kids do at the music solo festivals and the mock trial competitions and the debate tournaments. Wait, many of them ARE the kids at those events. Not having arrived at the crossroads where one must declare a direction, they are still students for all seasons.

That’s the spirit in which the Des Moines Public Schools Foundation sponsors the science fair.

“The Foundation provides…financial support to enhance the educational experiences of DMPS students to prepare them for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) opportunities…We support…science and the arts,” read the “Sponsor Spotlight,” in part.

Girl standing next to science fair exhibit

Brody 7th grader Emma Donahey shares the results of her experiment with a solar power hot dog machine.

This used to be an exclusively middle school event. But since it was opened to high school students that category of contestants continues to grow. This year’s science fair attracted 230 participants. District Science Curriculum Coordinator Adam Puderbaugh said there were almost 50% more entries in the high school division this year than last. And make no mistake, by that stage there’s some serious science going on in areas ranging from marine biology to crime scene forensics.

Still, you gotta love the novices, the ones who get their booths set-up and then are overheard making the rounds to “ ‘scope out the competition.” Not in a competitive way; in a friendly, flirtatious way aimed at forming alliances that will outlast this one night of rivalry.

And you gotta love their topics.

Take Brody 7th grader Emma Donahey, for instance. With the foresight of a seasoned scientist she experimented during still warm enough September on the ways and means of cooking a hot dog with solar power. Her empty Pringles tube lined with aluminum foil did the trick in about 13 minutes (versus nine minutes required to boil one). Just about the time it might take to munch the chips as an appetizer while you wait. Maybe less in July.

Or how about Merrill 6th grader Temple Landry. Her research tackled the quandary (for some) of the five-second rule. While still undecided on what to do for a science project she accidentally dropped some tidbit of food on the floor – and the light bulb came on!

Her experiments revealed, through her microscopic observations of food samples served up in petri dishes, that yes indeed, the longer a morsel lay on the floor or the ground, the greater the proliferation of bacteria. But if you grab it quick the relatively few that adhere might just be seen as a little seasoning.

Another thought after making the rounds of the middle school division: dogs are the new guinea pigs in the amateur sport of science fairing. Little do they know, or care, that when they sign on as a family’s best friend that the job description may well include service as the subject of research that would make Pavlov proud.

Just before the official opening bell there’s a meeting in the green room where judges from laboratories including Iowa State, Des Moines University, Grand View and DuPont Pioneer collect their rubrics and marching orders.

Presentation matters. That’s the art part. Full STEAM ahead!

Below is a list of last night’s top finishers, each of whom qualifies for the state science fair at Iowa State University later this spring. And scroll down a little further for photos from the event.

Life Science
1st Temple Landry Merrill Middle School
2nd Zadie Hoff & Julia Moody Cowles Montessori
3rd Olivia Speers Cowles Montessori
Physical Science
1st Campbell Helton Merrill Middle School
2nd Lillian Grasmick Merrill Middle School
3rd Bailey Baccam Weeks Middle School
3rd Leo Gaukel Merrill Middle School
Earth and Environmental Science
1st Luke Garcia Merrill Middle School
2nd Madeline Lohmeier Merrill Middle School
3rd Joshua Campos & Alex Pond Weeks Middle School
Life Science
1st Katherine Beeman Merrill Middle School
2nd Abigail Levering Brody Middle School
3rd Emma Phomvisay Merrill Middle School
Physical Science
1st John Puri Merrill Middle School
2nd Lucia Rongerude Merrill Middle School
3rd Macy Mouw Merrill Middle School
Earth and Environmental Science
1st Ryan Huang Merrill Middle School
2nd Emma Donahey Brody Middle School
3rd Cecilia Campero Brody Middle School
Life Science
1st Natalie Gonzalez Weeks Middle School
2nd Christie Rus Merrill Middle School
3rd Danterell Lamar Harding Middle School
3rd Leslie Delgado Callanan Middle School
Physical Science
1st Jacqueline Bernardino McCombs Middle School
2nd Stefania Hernandez-Ramirez McCombs Middle School
3rd Santos Campero Brody Middle School
Earth and Environmental Science
1st Luz Flores-Maciel Weeks Middle School
2nd Jenna Link Cowles Montessori
3rd Gabrielle Miller & Lauren Drake Cowles Montessori
Life Science
1st Nawadir “Nosa” Ali Central Academy
2nd Hailey Zugg Central Campus
3rd Jade Miller Central Campus
Physical Science
1st Angel Marquez-Perez & Carlos Rojas North High School
2nd Abby Espinosa-Gonzalez Bellolio North High School
3rd Junice Sibley North High School
Earth and Environmental Science
1st Hanna Walker Central Campus
2nd Carissa Villanueva & Joe Murdock Central Campus
3rd Daisy Hernandez & Nayely Velazquez North High School

Photos of the 9th annual DMPS Science Fair

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