St. Olaf sixth-grader takes top prize in his first science fair
Friday, Feb. 19, 2021
BOUNTIFUL — Many people enjoy burning scented candles in their homes, but recent research by St. Olaf sixth-grader Chase Kramer suggests the practice may be surprisingly harmful to their health. Chase, 11, found that the air quality surrounding such candles is worse than at a TRAX station or even an oil refinery.
The study was all part of Chase’s project for the Diocesan Science Fair on Feb. 6, where he earned the title of Young Scientist of the Year, as well as three other awards.
The idea for his project came one day last year as his family drove around the Salt Lake Valley. The air was filled with smoke from fires burning in California, and Chase wondered, “Is there anywhere I can breathe clean air?” he said. To answer that question, Chase decided to test air quality at several sites and times and days for his project, “The Search for Clean Air.”
Using a Temtop M-200C air quality reader, he tested the particulate matter in the air at the Fashion Place Mall food court, a home under construction, a North Salt Lake refinery, in his home burning both scented and unscented candles, at the Woods Cross TRAX station and on I-15 in South Salt Lake.
The results shocked Chase; by far the most toxic air at all the sites was his home with the candles burning, particularly the scented candles.
“That really surprised me because while I was thinking of this project I was thinking of things like Stericycle, factories and refineries – anywhere – would be so much worse, but just this little candle in the home could make the air so hazardous,” he said. ““It just shocked me that something that simple that you could buy for your home could be that bad for the air.”
Judges to whom he presented his findings and methodology were so impressed they gave him the highest of scores in three categories, which led to his receiving the top overall prize: the Young Scientist of the Year award.
Chase said he became much more aware of the environmental impacts on the air we breathe after completing his project.
“We need to really help the air,” he said, suggesting that electric cars could benefit air quality.
Chase said he was comfortable with the virtual aspect of this year’s science fair, which was his first ever. The ZFair software used by the diocese worked well and he said he is excited to move on to the University of Utah Science and Engineering Fair March 8-12, which will also be held virtually
“I’m just going to handle it like I did the last one: interact with the judges, be friendly and try my hardest,” he said.
Although he enjoyed his project and the science fair, Chase’s ambitions lie in other areas. After graduation from St. Olaf, Chase plans to attend either Olympus High School or Judge Memorial Catholic High School. Following high school, he would like to serve a mission for his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, before attending law school. After law school, he hopes to pursue a career in politics, beginning with local city council positions and culminating with a possible eventual run for governor in Utah or elsewhere.
Chase is the youngest of the seven children of Jeff and Margaret White. He recently returned to St. Olaf after a five-year absence after the family moved out of the area.