ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -- A row of potted plants; a group of solar panels; a bridge made of Popsicle sticks.
These are experiments that can be found in science classrooms across America. And for students at the Twin Tiers Regional Science Fair, these experiments were the results of months of hard work.
More than 30 students from six schools in the Twin Tiers region gathered in the Doyle Dining Hall at St. Bonaventure University on Thursday morning for the university-sponsored third annual fair, presenting experiments in the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics.
The students competed for scholarships, Amazon gift cards, and the chance to advance to science fairs scheduled for later this year.
However, some students said the fair was also a chance to help the communities they live in.
Sully O’Dell, a freshman at Allegany-Limestone Central School, experimented with the use of magnets to prevent concussions in football games.
“I’m a football player, and I have friends that have experienced concussions,” O’Dell said. “I definitely wanted to research this problem. I was playing with magnets one day and thought, ‘Hey, maybe this would work.’ ”
O’Dell designed a machine that slams two football helmets together, simulating a collision. O’Dell said he measured the force of impact between the two helmets. Then he added two opposite facing magnets to the helmets.
According to O’Dell, the helmets with magnets repelled each other, resulting in a lower force of impact.
“We’re more vulnerable as high schoolers than NFL players,” O’Dell said. “If scientists can find a way to make the brain and the skull move as one, then concussions would go away. That’s what the magnets do.”
For Mackenzie Wilson, her experiment is an opportunity to help the environment.
Wilson, a junior at Hinsdale Central School, experimented with recycling dish water, known as “graywater,” to grow plants.
“It’s become very popular because about 50 percent of the U.S. has drought problems.” Wilson, said.
Wilson said her grandparents inspired her to experiment with recycling graywater.
“My grandparents live in California,” Wilson said. “They used to have a huge garden in their yard, but had to minimize it because of water restrictions. They started to use this system when I visited them last summer."
According to Wilson, the plants she watered with graywater produced better flowers than plants she watered using filtered water. Wilson said she plans to bring her findings back to her grandparents in California and share what she learned.
“There are many homes that have yards that look like deserts,” Wilson said. “Using the graywater will bring that green life back to those areas.”
Tedden Shaw, an eighth-grader at Archbishop Walsh Academy, experimented with designing an affordable prosthetic leg.
“I wanted to see if I could make a prosthetic leg that was cheaper than the ones you can get on market,” said Shaw. “Normally they cost $50,000 to $70,000. I got mine for under $30.”
Shaw demonstrated his prosthetic leg, strapping it to his knee and walking around the hall.
According to Shaw, this was not his first time experimenting with prosthetic limbs. Last year he designed a prosthetic arm that could pick up water bottles.
“If you make them right, you can actually play sports with them,” Shaw said.
The fair concluded with an awards ceremony in the Doyle Hall Trustee’s Room.
O’Dell, the freshman from Allegany-Limestone, won the opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California. He will spend one week in May with students from 70 countries. And when O’Dell returns to the Twin Tiers area he will become Intel ISEF Ambassador for 2018, sharing his experiences at the fair with local students.
Dr. Jim Pientka, assistant professor of physics at St. Bonaventure, spoke to the students about the importance of their work.
“I had the opportunity to look around and see each project,” Pientka told the students. “You can tell that each and every one of you has a passion for science. Don’t let that end here.”
Pientka, one of the five St. Bonaventure faculty who helped organize the fair, encouraged the students to keep pursuing science.
“Continue pursuing science, mathematics, engineering, technology,” Pientka said. “Those fields are very important for making not only the quality of our lives better, but also making a difference in our environment.”