Daniel Mangiaracino has been waiting most of his life to participate in a science fair — well, at least since before he was in kindergarten.
On Friday, the Bishop Seabury sixth-grader was busy setting up his exhibit board, the tallest one in the room, in the gym at South Middle School, 2734 La. Daniel’s project measured sugar content using a laser. He’d been working on it since the start of the school year. In all, he has spent nearly 150 hours researching and experimenting, he estimated.
“I’m very, very excited,” he said, noting it was almost as much fun as History Day.
Daniel’s project was one of more than 300 that was entered into the USD 497 District Science Fair. Sponsored in part by the Douglas County Science Fair Association, the event is opened to all public and private school students throughout the county. About 800 students are expected to participate.
From 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, the fair will be open to the public. Along with the student’s work, the science expo will have hands-on activities from Kansas University’s science and engineering departments, animals from Pet World and representatives from local astronomy and conservation clubs.
Since October, students and teachers have been preparing for the fair. The intent is to help students grasp the process behind scientific research.
Each of the projects will be judged on how the student gathered data, displayed the data and came to conclusions based on the data. Along with a exhibit board, each of the projects comes with a written report.
“It’s an opportunity to apply the scientific method, from the development of an inquiry and question that they want to test to forming a hypothesis and some type of procedure to test that hypothesis and collect the data,” said Anne Hawks, Lawrence Public Schools curriculum specialist.
While the event is to encourage budding scientists, it also tests math and language arts skills.
The projects on display Friday night ranged in topics from what gender had the most bacteria in their bathroom to the effects of electric voltage on plant growth. The fair is divided by physical science, life science and engineering projects.
Many of the projects involved some kind of food, such as which food would spoil fastest, whether potatoes or lemons could power a light bulb or if peppermint improved reaction time.
Prairie Park School first-grader Frances Parker and five other girls from her Girl Scout troop picked a tasty experiment subject: brownies. They tested what would happen if they left out different ingredients, such as eggs, butter or chocolate. Parker’s favorite was the one with no flour. The worst was the one that didn’t have any eggs, Parker said.
As for Daniel, his experiments on sugar and lasers revealed that there was no sugar in Diet Coke, but that sugar made up about one-fifth of what is in regular Coke. It also helped him discover his inner scientist, which he said he might be one day — that or a concert pianist.