BSMA awards 9 science fair winners

Los Alamos students wow at annual event

March 1, 2022

This year, the fair was completely virtual and students shared digital presentations. Among the judges were Shari Foley, manager of Gadgets gift shop, and Wendy Strohmeyer, the Bradbury Science Museum’s collections manager. Judging criteria included creativity, clear interpretation, presentation slides’ design and strong use of the scientific method.

Check out the award winners!

1. Elementary division: Ryan Richardson

The freeze test

Ryan conducted a freeze test in his home refrigerator of four different water solutions. He documented each solution’s freezing process.

He was surprised to note that his saltwater mixture reached very cold temperatures without freezing into a solid. This led to a sudden understanding of why highways are salted in winter.

Ryan’s presentation was clear and attractive, and made good use of an infrared thermometer — a tool many of us have recently added to our home medical supplies.

2. Elementary division: Xavier Maestas

Un-brown the sugar

Xavier wondered whether brown sugar, which is made with molasses, could be “washed” with water and heat to remove the brown color.

It took 19 days to re-grow crystals from the dissolved sugar. The crystals were still brown! By satisfying an honest, curious question, Xavier learned that purifying substances using crystallization is complicated.

Haley B
Slide from Haley Bishofberger's presentation

3. Elementary division: Haley Bishofberger

Are you on the right foot (on ice)?

Which shoes are best for walking on ice? Haley came up with a very clever way to test the contenders. She attached a rubber band to different types of shoe and dragged each across a small sheet of ice. She evaluated the grip strength of each sole on the ice by measuring how much the rubber band stretched.

Haley impressed the judges with the variety of her shoes, from high heels and sandals to crampons and snowshoes. The documentation and graphs were nicely done. She produced interesting results with strong interpretation. Haley showed a good understanding of static and kinetic friction.

4. Junior division: Elena Roybal

Which material biodegrades faster?

Elena presented a very thorough project to understand the negative impact of litter on the environment. She tested a wide variety of objects in different soils and evaluated their rates of decay. Judges appreciated the variety of tests, and Elena’s charts and graphs that beautifully illustrated the results. The soil samples’ different rates of decay produced interesting results, and the judges shared Elena’s delight at mushrooms sprouting in her setup — a sign of a healthy soil ecosystem!

Liv and Anna
Slide from Liv Niklasson and Anna Simakov's presentation

5. Junior division: Liv Niklasson and Anna Simakov

ABCD: Abundance of bacteria

Liv and Anna produced one of many projects inspired by life among COVID-19. The team set out to discover microorganism levels in the air of five different public places. The pair presented a very thoughtful project, with careful consideration for the data variations within selected test sites. Through an impressive testing and attractively designed presentation, Liv and Anna discovered that gyms were most dangerously contaminated sites. This result was contrary to their expectation that the most contaminated locations would be grocery stores and restaurants.

6. Junior division: Gavin Bent

Starry spectroscopy

Like many of us, Gavin wondered if there might be a solar system in our universe that could support life — either human or alien. Using a calculator and researched information on a selection of giant and dwarf stars, Gavin carefully worked out the radiation dose in rems per year for each star. He clearly listed the reason for every step in the equation, making his presentation easily understood.

7. Senior division: Andres Iturregui and Daniel Kim

Developing a control algorithm and simulation for thrust vector-controlled rockets

Andres and Daniel created a beautifully designed project that documented the steps in their effort to create — in both simulated and real-world models — a rocket with thrust vector control capabilities.

This is not a simple endeavor, and Andres and Daniel struggled to conduct a successful flight. However, judges were awestruck at the large amount of calculations, research and trial-and-error the team poured into their attempts. The judges wished them every success in the future, and hope they continue to work on their rocket.

8. Senior division: Phillip Ionkov and Ming-Yuan Lo

Designing a system to build telescope mirrors in space

For this team project, Phillip and Ming-Yuan illustrated an idea for using robots to assemble sections of the massive mirrors needed by telescopes in space. By separating the mirror into sections, the compact, stored pieces can more easily be launched from Earth and reassembled to their full form once the telescope is in place.

Phillip and Ming-Yuan produced a clear idea, with terrific visual aids. The judges admired their creativity!

Michael B
Slide from Michael Bane’s presentation

9. Senior division: Michael Bane

Aerofoil optimization

This project was a continuation of Michael’s presentation from a previous year. The judges were happy to see students build on their earlier work and continue to explore areas of interest.

This year, Michael returned to his aerofoil models, hoping to make them more efficient and more environmentally friendly by reducing carbon emissions. He used digital simulations as well as foam models. He conducted physical tests in a very impressive homemade wind tunnel.

The project was concluded with a list of plans for future study and testing.

See you at next year’s science fair!