Girl Scout organizes science fair
A Fairfield High School senior organized a science fair Saturday to earn the “Gold Award,” the highest honor in Girl Scouts.
Kaitlyn Daugherty is in her 12th and final year of scouting. To earn her Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle rank, she needed to find a project. Daugherty is very interested in science and wants to pursue a career in the field. She noticed the Fairfield Community School District had not put on a science fair in quite some time, so she decided she would organize one herself.
Saturday, Daugherty’s hard work came to fruition with a science fair in the Fairfield Middle School where 32 students proudly displayed 28 projects.
Each student or student group set up a booth on a table in the cafetorium. The booths educated attendees in a variety of subjects ranging from helicopters to viruses to homemade lava lamps.
Once Daugherty hatched the idea of the science fair, she sought the help of local science teachers. Once the science teachers were on board, she proposed the science fair idea to her Girl Scout council.
“The proposal took a long time to write, probably 20 to 30 hours,” she said. “I had my project basically planned before the council approved it.”
The council recommends Girl Scouts put in 80 hours toward their Gold Award project. Daugherty said she has worked at least 80 hours on the project and that rarely has it been far from her mind in the past five months.
Daugherty opened the science fair to students at the Fairfield middle and high school, the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) and the Pekin Community School District.
“I wanted to invite Pekin and MSAE because their students have experience with science fairs and because I wanted to get more people involved,” she said. “Students would be inspired to participate in the science fair again, to see what a good project looked like and to see how they could improve.”
Fairfield sixth-grader Garrett Ward brought a most unusual display to the science fair. Ward created a posterboard comparing the human and rodent anatomies, but he took much more than the posterboard. The youngster wanted the attendees to see a rodent’s anatomy up close and personal, so he ordered a dead rat on the Internet, dissected it and took it with him to show at the fair.
“I found it on Amazon,” he said. “I typed in ‘dead rat order’ and all these results came up.”
Ward said the only thing he finds distasteful about the rat is the smell.
“You wouldn’t be harmed by it because they’ve already cleaned it with gases, so it’s fine,” he said. “It was preserved for dissection.”
Ward got the idea to show the rat after feeling an urge to do more than just a posterboard.
“I didn’t want random pictures on the Internet, because I wouldn’t feel that I did any work at all,” he said. “I wanted to have something that would get people’s attention.”
Ward had never dissected anything before and said this science project proved to be a learning opportunity for him, too.
“I learned when you dissect something, you don’t cut into it, you cut to open,” he said. “Dissecting is not about cutting; it’s about getting a closer look. That’s the main thing people don’t understand about dissection.”
Seventh-grader Kristen Daugherty investigated a wildly held belief about germs for her science project. A common theory, especially popular with people who’ve just dropped a snack on the floor, is that if the food is picked up within five seconds it won’t have any bacteria on it. Daugherty suspected the conventional wisdom was wrong, so she conducted a series of experiments to find out.
“I found food picks up bacteria as soon as it hits the floor,” she said. “If people drop one of their mom’s homemade cookies on the floor, they don’t want it to go to waste. They think it will be OK if they just blow off the germs because they still want to eat it.”
At the same time, Daugherty also found the length of time an item is on the floor does affect how much bacteria it contains. She experimented by leaving a cotton swab on the ground for five seconds and for 15 seconds. She found more bacteria on the cotton swab that was on the floor for 15 seconds.
Duncan Phipps, a sophomore at Fairfield High School, created a model of a virus as part of his display. His project was about a particular kind of “good virus” that replicates inside bacteria known as a bacteriophage.
Phipps heard about bacteriophages during a science class in seventh grade. He didn’t think much about them until just recently when he learned there would be a science fair.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It took a lot of effort, but it was definitely worth it.”
Bacteriophages are considered “good viruses” because they can be used to cure ear infections and strep throat.
Phipps said he wants to continue studying microbiology after high school.