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Jeremy Ranch Elementary hosts a celebration of science

Bryson Garland, a student at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, used magnets to make a magnetic levitation train for the school s science fair, held Thursday, Jan. 14. He tested how much weight the train could hold before touching its track and said he enjoyed participating in the fair. (Bubba Brown/Park Record)
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The science projects were lined up in rows at the Jeremy Ranch Elementary School gym, and the students waited excitedly to show off the fruits of their labor to the panel of judges.

Many of the students had been working on their projects since early in the school year, meaning it was the culmination of several months of hard work. For others, it represented a shot to advance to the district-wide science fair, set for Feb. 3.

In short, it was nothing short of a celebration of science.

Stacia Hoots, a parent volunteer in charge of organizing the school’s annual science fair, which was held Thursday, Jan. 14, said she hopes that the event sparks a love of science in the students who participate. Projects are mandatory for fifth-graders, who have the chance to move on to the district competition, while dozens of students in the other grades do them voluntarily.

"I hope it does plant a seed in them," Hoots said. "This is a safe environment. This isn’t trying to pick a college major. They come in here and everyone is encouraging and you have all your peers doing it as well. It’s a good experience, and I hope that helps."

Each year, students are enthusiastic about entering their projects into the fair, Hoots said. Some students spend months on them, while others throw them together the week of the fair, but each student has the chance to learn valuable skills.

"For the team projects, they certainly learn how to work in a group, which is challenging at times," she said. "But it’s also problem-solving skills and logic and figuring out what to do next. In some cases, they might have had a hypothesis that they couldn’t prove. And that’s OK to do that in science. I hope they take away from it that it’s OK to be wrong — you just have to try again."

Bryson Garland was one student hoping to make an impression on the judges. He used magnets to create a magnetic levitation (maglev) train, then placed cups filled with water on it to test how much weight the train could hold before touching the track.

"I always thought, ‘How could a bullet train float while going so fast?’" he said. "When I figured out it was magnets, I wondered if I could make my own bullet train."

The result: His train could levitate when holding up to about 80 grams, about 40 grams more than he predicted in his hypothesis.

"It turns out that magnets are a lot stronger than I thought they were," he said. "It was very fun. The best part of doing it was seeing the train float and hold something while not touching anything."

Drew Hoots and Jack Saladyga tested the "flow rates" of solid objects, seeing how they compared with liquids. They dropped objects into a funnel and timed how long it took for them to fall through.

"We found out that the smaller spheres would go faster through the funnel," Drew Hoots said.

Though the projects varied, there was a common thread among all of them. Stacia Hoots said it made her very happy to see so much enthusiasm for science.

"It’s a lot of work, but the parents all chip in and the teachers are very helpful," she said. "I can’t stop smiling because of how great it is. And we’ve got a lot of people from the community that come in and judge the projects. To see them excited and the kids excited to present to them just fills my heart. It’s awesome."


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