Erin Jeon was a 6th grader at Westpark Elementary School in the 2015-2016 school year She also was a Junior Division winner of the 2015-2016 Orange County Science and Engineering Fair. Her project was called “Ocean Blues” and investigated the effect trash and runoff from human development had on the levels of E. coli bacteria in the ocean.


Erin first became interested in doing this project when she visited different beaches and noticed that some beaches were more crowded than others. She combined this with her love of biology to see which beach would contain the least bacteria and by extension “which beaches were safe for beachgoers.” She created this project to help “government or city officials use this information to improve the environment.”


Erin faced many obstacles during her work at the beach. During her work, one experimental trial resulted in an uncertain result, because her testing method only accurately worked up to a certain number of bacteria, and the test result exceeded that number. Therefore, she was unable to accurately determine the amount of E. coli present. After much debate, she ended up counting the result, as it would not have been fair to throw it out and test again when all other beaches had also been tested only twice. From this experience, she learned that it was important to be careful when conducting the experiment to minimize variation, and transformed an obstacle into a learning experience.


Erin would like to expand on her project in the future by increasing the amount of beaches she tests, and increasing the variation in the types of beaches she tests. She would like to test waters from “different oceans, countries, and continents.” She believes the difference in bacteria levels in bays, free flowing water, and beaches will be significant. She also advises those new to science fair to “find a topic you really care about because the science fair is a long process. It takes a couple of months to complete the project. A topic that interests you will keep you going and motivated, and it would be hard to do all the work associated with science fair if it’s all on a topic that doesn’t seem exciting and fun to you.”


Outside of science fair, Erin enjoys dancing and reading. She has danced since the age of two and enjoys many different styles of dance. She also nurtures a love for books and enjoys figuring out how to display them on her bookshelves.