DRAPER — At the Knights of Columbus Diocesan Science and Engineering Fair held Feb. 3 at Juan Diego Catholic High School, real-life application seemed to be the unspoken theme this year. The majority of the 147 entries took inspiration from the students’ lives to develop their projects.
For example, St. John the Baptist Catholic School sixth-grader Bella Newton, 12, a volleyball player, noticed that she and her teammates seemed to perform differently depending on the color of the ball they used. This intrigued her, so she set out to see if her observations were valid. It turned out they were: Brighter-colored balls distracted the players, resulting in worse game play compared to using balls that had more muted colors.
This was the first year that Bella competed in the science fair. “I think it’s a great experience,” she said. “It helps me and other students learn things and do stuff with science. Everyone here is just so supportive, and it’s just a great experience.”
Bella took first place in the Sixth Grade Behavioral and Social Science category with her project.
For Everett Mendenhall, 13, an eighth-grade student at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, the science fair project allowed him to combine his interest in 3-D printing with the chance to help someone else. He designed and built a working prosthetic finger for his teacher Josh Hegvik, who had lost the digit in a construction accident.
“I saw this project three years ago and I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t have a 3-D printer,” he said. “Just this last year I’ve gotten my 3-D printer, I’ve gotten really good at all this stuff, so I was like, ‘This is the time to do it’ and it’s a great science fair project.”
The prosthetic is rudimentary at this stage, but Everett plans to refine it and hopes to have a functional finger for his teacher by the end of the year. Although he views the project as a work in progress, he won the Best Working Model and Culture of Life awards at the science and engineering fair.
This was the fifth science and engineering fair for Aidan Mulligan, 18, a Juan Diego CHS senior, who chose to study whether black-market drugs can cure a feline disease that has a 100 percent fatality rate. (Sometimes they can, he concluded). Aidan did the project this summer at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy as part of the school’s science academy program.
“I think it’s really cool to see how science works in an actual science lab and to participate in that,” he said. “I think the value [of entering a science fair] is learning how to give a good presentation and learning how to talk to people and explain your thinking.”
Callie Fairbanks, 17, was inspired to do her project after seeing a YouTube video on the Death Positive movement, whose members believe that “it is not morbid or taboo to speak openly about death,” according to https://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/death-positive-movement/.
A Juan Diego CHS junior, Callie studied funeral homes to show that they exhibit different levels of diversity on their websites based on the types of services they offer. She concluded that the funeral homes offering alternative services such as water cremation, human composting and green burial were more likely to honor the traditions of their clients, a fact that was reflected on their website.
Several judges commented that the projects this year were much better than they have been the last few years, fair organizer Dr. Christine Celestino said.
Participating in these fairs offers students an experience that can’t be duplicated in the classroom, she added.
“Anytime that a student can see the relevance and application of what they’re learning at school, that helps them to be motivated to do well in school and it helps them learn and remember the concepts that they are learning,” she said. “So these kids having a chance to do a project that they come up with, that’s interesting to them – they’re going to remember that so much better than a lecture or a lesson that the teacher gives them.”