MCA Students Take Top Honors at Science Fair

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By Terry Rogers

Five Milford Central Academy students placed at the Kent County Science Fair, qualifying them to participate in the Delaware Valley Regional Science Fair at Drexel University April 2 through 4. At the regional event, the students will compete against students from New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania for scholarship monies and an opportunity to compete at the Intel International Science Fair. Jacqueline Powers, a 6th grade science teacher at MCA and the Science Fair Coordinator, said that this is the first time MCA students have advanced to the regional level.

Nathan Schwan, a 7th grader at MCA, took first place in Environmental Science for his project related to creating better sandbags to use during flooding. Mr. Schwan said that he came up with the idea for his project after hearing about flooding in South Carolina. He said that when he heard about the floods, which caused $1.5 million in damage, he wondered if there was a way to create sandbags that actually absorbed water. He tested a variety of substances and was required to research how each safe each substance was for the environment.

“I found that crystals added to the powder used in sandbags actually worked much better,” Mr. Schwan said. “The crystal had better absorption and didn’t leave the sandbags mushy. This is the first time I have ever won first place for anything, except maybe a video game.” Ms. Powers said that there was potential for Mr. Schwan to earn a patent for his project as, although there are similar products available, there are not products that work as well as the one he developed. Mr. Schwan wants to be a civil or environmental engineer.

Jackson Caldwell, a 6th grader, won second place in the Engineering category. His project was electro-magnetic propulsion. He said the idea came to him when he and his family moved recently. During the move, the electric had to be shut off at the old home and turned back on in the new home. He began to wonder if there was a way to move things along more quickly, so he began studying how fast electric magnetic current could travel depending on how many copper coils were used. It was his first science fair and he said he was very excited to travel to the regional competition. He hopes to become a molecular biologist or engineer.

Brendan Slonacher, also a 6th grade student, placed third in the Environmental Science category. Mr. Slonacher’s project tested what product provided the best method for water filtration.

“I came up with this project because I knew people in Africa had to drink dirty, disgusting water that was brown,” Mr. Slonacher said. “We were raising money in school for filters for these people and the filters were so expensive, over $100 for just one. I wanted to see if there was a way to filter the water more cheaply. I learned that paper is the best filter because the distance in fibers is smaller than material or bark. It filtered more of the water.” Mr. Slonacher has competed in two other science fairs. In 3rd grade, he won first place but in his 5th grade science fair he did not place. He wants to be an entomologist.

Jacob Smith placed third in the Zoology category for his project that tested whether changing the color of feeding dishes affected a chicken’s eating habits. Mr. Smith, who lives on a farm with goats and chickens, said that he knew Delaware had a large broiler production and that it was an important part of the economy.

“I thought that if farmers changed feeding dishes to a color chickens liked more, they would eat more, grow faster and be able to go to market faster,” Mr. Smith said. “This meant that a farmer could earn more. I found that chickens prefer red because they can process that color.” Mr. Smith, who is also president of the MCA FFA organization, said that he also intends to participate in the Ag Science Fair at the Delaware State Fairgrounds. This was his third science fair. He hopes to become either a veterinarian, geneticist or agriculture teacher.

Dylan Phillips placed second in the Environmental Sciences category. His project researched what type of salt melts ice and snow the fastest. He decided on the project during a snowstorm after hearing about accidents that occur when the weather is bad. He said that he learned that there are certain salts used by DelDOT for roads and that different salts melt at different temperatures. His project found that brine melts the fastest at room temperature while ice melt, which is a combination of different types of salt, worked fasted in the refrigerator or freezer. In 5th grade, Mr. Phillips won second place in a science fair. Unlike the other science fair participants, Mr. Phillips does not intend to enter the science field. He said that he wants to be an actor and that he just likes science. He performed in the spring musical at the high school “Tarzan” earlier in March.

Ms. Powers said that the students were part of an RTI group that met at the end of the day. RTI programs are voluntary and are for students who are not struggling in other classes. The students used their RTI time to do their own research and participation was completely voluntary.

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