The Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) is a nonprofit educational organization that has promoted science and engineering in Orange County since 1955. The educators, scientists, and engineers who volunteer their services are committed to educating, guiding, and motivating students to engage in project-based learning in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to be college and career ready in the 21st century.
Four high school students were selected to represent Orange County at the 2016 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.
Jennifer Cresap was a 7th grader in the Fairmont Historic Anaheim Campus Private School in the 2015-2016 school year. She was a first place Junior Division winner in the Pharmacology category in the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair. Her project title is “Planaria: The Race to Regenerate.” In this project, Jennifer investigated the effects of aloe vera and caffeine on the regeneration of various species of planaria (flatworms).
While researching various projects, Jennifer became intrigued by the impressive regeneration powers of planaria. She proceeded to test their regeneration properties using different chemicals. With these experiments, she discovered what helped and hindered the regeneration of planaria. Jennifer hypothesized that planaria would regenerate at a faster rate if aloe vera was added to a planaria’s surroundings rather than caffeine.
As mentioned before, the two chemicals that were tested were aloe vera and caffeine. After cutting the planaria samples in half, she observed the time it took for the organisms to regenerate. At the end of the project, she discovered that aloe vera did not only speed up planaria regeneration, but also increased the health of the planaria. It was also observed that caffeine ended up killing off the planaria.
Jennifer ran into several obstacles in the process of her project. Cutting the worms proved to be quite the challenge, as well as documentation of the project process through pictures.
She especially enjoyed the judging experience at OCSEF, as the notion of sharing her findings with like-minded people was very exciting. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys debate and reading books.
Jacob Gibbs, an 8th grader in the 2015-2016 school year at Fairmont Private School Historic Anaheim Campus, was the first place winner for Environmental Science of the Junior Division in the OC Science and Engineering Fair. His project, titled “The Most Superior Way to Conserve Water when Growing Grass”, investigates the different methods of watering plants to conserve water and have healthy plants.
When creating this project, Jacob had to research a variety of topics that interested him, but in the end, he selected this one because “by tackling this problem, [he could] definitely alleviate the long term issue” of the “California drought.” This way, he could potentially help mitigate the effect of the drought on “agriculture and residential lawns” by using “a variety of solutions… to determine which method works [with] different environments.”
In the process of his experiment, Jacob faced many problems, one of which was the rain. The rain would interfere with the experiment by introducing a variable that could not be accounted for by his experiment. In order to eliminate this variable, Jacob “solved this [problem] by covering the grass with a clear plastic tarp.” In doing so, Jacob ensured that rain did not interfere with his experiment and that “the grass would receive an even amount of sunlight.”
Jacob was forced out of his comfort zone when creating his project because he needed to “go outside every night for three months to take measurements. This was a hard task that [he] was not accustomed to.” However, he learned from this experience and it “taught a lot about self control and keeping a routine.”
Geoffrey Gaites II, a 6th-grader at Davis Magnet School, entered his project in the Junior Division of the OC Science and Engineering Fair of 2015 - 2016. His chemistry project, entitled, “Break the Tension,” tested water surface tension.
Geoffrey decided to participate in the science fair when his science teacher, Mrs. Brusic, chose his year-long project to move on to the OCFS science fair. Thinking it would be a great learning experience and a chance to further explore his passion for science, Geoffrey decided to compete in OCSEF as well.
Geoffrey was first inspired to do his project when a series of curious thoughts in his kitchen led him to wonder about the different possibilities of how the strength of a liquid’s surface tension could be altered. The most efficient way to test this, he decided, was to use a liquid easily accessible anywhere--water.
Geoffrey’s project about surface tension compared the tension strength of different types of water, ranging from pure and clean water to polluted and dirty water. His hypothesis was that dirty water would increase the surface tension, as the dirt particles would allow more area and support for water molecules to cling on to. After completing a long and arduous procedure, Geoffrey’s hypothesis proved to be incorrect when clean water held itself together better than dirty water did. “I think this happens because the dirt gets in the way of the water molecules’ bonding,” Geoffrey says, reflecting on his experiment’s result. “Surface tension is like a protective skin around the bodies of water.”
Geoffrey planned his procedure out very carefully. He designated three different types of water (pure, slightly dirty, and extremely dirty) and tested each five times to be as accurate as possible. Using a water dropper, he placed water droplets on a penny and counted how many drops of water could stay in the penny before spilling out. As a result of meticulous experimental design, Geoffrey proudly affirms that he did not face any obstacles while completing his project.
In the end, Geoffrey believes that conducting an experiment and competing the OC Science and Engineering Fair was a great learning experience, and he hopes to do the same again next year and continue down his path in science.
Harsha Thangavijayan, an 8th grader in the 2015-2016 school year at Fairmont Private School in Anaheim Hills, was the first place winner for Zoology of the Junior Division in the OC Science and Engineering Fair of that year. His project is titled “Can Light Control Heart Rate?” and in it he investigates the effect of light on the heart rate of Daphnia Magna.
Harsha first became interested in creating this project when he learned that “cardiovascular diseases caused around 17 million deaths a year, representing 30% of global deaths.” He had “never expected heart diseases to be a major healthcare burden.” He created this experiment in the hopes to see whether or not something accessible, such as light, would be able to have a large impact in the medical field and if there is “a way to implement it.”
Harsha faced many obstacles in conducting his project, one of which was “finding a way to confirm that light actually controlled heart rate” because the “raw data overlapped a lot.” He did not want to jump to conclusions without substantial proof of his results. To overcome this issue, Harsha consulted Dr. Gil Bub, who suggested his to perform a “paired one-tailed t-test,” a form of statistical analysis With the t-test now supporting his hypothesis that light did affect heart rate, He was able to confidently come to his conclusions.
In his experiment, He was forced to venture out of his comfort zone by “contacting people with expert knowledge in the project.” He learned that science research was not simply a one person job but a collective effort towards a single goal. In the future, Harsha plans to continue his experiments “for many years to come,” as it has boosted his “confidence in finding a way to cure heart diseases.”
Ethan Hung, a 7th grader in the 2015-16 school year at Jeffrey Trail Middle School, was the first place winner for the Microbiology and Cell Biology category in the OC Science and Engineering Fair for that year. His project is called “Reducing Global Warming Through Chemosynthesis”.
Global warming is a serious threat to our environment. The increased release of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is trapping in heat from the sun, causing an overall increase in temperature of our planet. Global warming is causing the ocean levels to increase because of melting ice. In addition, global warming is causing the increased spread of many deadly diseases, among other harmful effects. Ethan decided to use “chemosynthetic bacteria to see if it was possible to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the environment”. Chemosynthetic bacteria are known for their ability to use “hazardous sulfides and carbon molecules, such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide instead of sunlight” for energy.
Ethan has been doing science research for two years now, being passionately driven by his love of science. It all started with his love of marine science because “it is so mysterious and undiscovered”. He loves science because it “is full of problems, enigmas, mysteries, and other puzzles that are waiting to be solved”.