Students make the most of the annual Science Fair, with levitating chairs, floating M&M letters, homemade vodka and more
In case there was any doubt, Cayman has a lot of smart kids.
The schoolchildren of the Cayman islands displayed their inventions, research and experiments at this year’s annual Rotary Central School Science Fair at the Arts and Recreation Centre at Camana Bay on Saturday, 2 April.
Projects ranged from a hovercraft chair to models of the solar system to broccoli-generated electricity to an invention that can turn seawater into fresh water and also generate power.
The hover chair, built by Antonio Angel and Joshua McLaughlin, both 17, proved one of the most popular, and noisiest, projects at the science fair as children vied for a chance to be lifted two inches off the ground on a chair. The ‘lift’ was provided by a leaf blower aimed at the ground and attached to a circular mat.
Antonio explained that experiments with the levitating chair showed that it could lift up to 900 pounds two inches off the ground. “We lifted three students on the chair at one stage, they weighed a total of 530 pounds,” he said.
Najah Lewin’s experiment with Skittles, M&Ms, oil and water revealed that the letters on the sweets, made with edible dye, will eventually detach and float on the surface of the water.
Evan Forth’s experiment showed that cork is the best material to soundproof a room, offering better noise insulation than carpet, wood or even acoustic tiling.
Natural disasters were obviously on the minds of some of the students – Kayla Grant and Keihana Ross built a volcano that smoked with the help of some well-placed incense sticks, while Carlyah Santo and Jasmine Ebanks explored the destructive power of hurricanes and earthquakes.
As well as being a showcase for some weird, wonderful and wacky projects, the science fair also highlighted the concerns and awareness the students have for the environment.
Several of the exhibitors showed novel ways of generating electricity, while others had some inventive methods of conserving water. A number of students also carried out experiments to test the quality of Cayman’s tap, bottled and swimming water.
Some pupils tested how much electricity could be generated from fruit and vegetables. Apparently, potatoes are more ‘powerful’ than broccoli, cabbage or carrots, while oranges produce a higher voltage than lemons.
Energy conservation was also demonstrated by 12-year-old Marissa Towell, who built a solar cooker, using a cardboard box, tin foil, a plastic bag and a saucepan, while Felipe Franco and Max Kazakov researched whether biofuel is a better alternative to diesel.
Soneil Gonez, 14, Jevon Reid, 13, and Alex Pona, 13, built an elaborate model of a system that sucks water from the sea and distributes it without a need for constant pumping. That water is then converted to fresh water. Soneil said that as well as collecting and distributing water, the invention could also produce power from the water. “According to the laws of physics, this is impossible,” he said of the invention. “I have two words for that – ha ha!”
Another conservation-minded exhibitor was Michael Son, 18, who demonstrated a system that automatically turns off garden and yard sprinklers in wet weather. “We’ve all seen sprinkler systems on while it’s raining; it’s a huge waste of water,” he said.
Recycling was also clearly on the minds of many of the students.
Sabrina Weber demonstrated the effects of watering tomato plants with eco-friendly detergent diluted in water. She watered the plants with the eco-friendly detergent and with normal detergent, and determined that plants treated with water with a 25 per cent mix of eco-friendly detergent led to a healthy, growing plant, while the others died. “So, you can water your plants with water you’ve used to wash, rather than throwing it out,” she said.
Adam Stoner and Ethan Whittaker showed off a solar system lit and powered by an engine from an old microwave, while Diarra Hoyte demonstrated how old tyres could be melted down to be turned into asphalt, roof tiles and paving materials.
The effect of modern products on health was explored by a number of students.
Connor Hoeksema and Tsin Zan Graham, both 13, examined what happens to plastic containers when they are microwaved. Using three brands, they first weighed the containers and then microwaved them empty, with soup and with water. “We expected that they would probably be lighter because the plastic might melt a little, but that didn’t happen. The one with the soup actually gained weight – the acids or oils were absorbed back into the container,” said Connor. Rubbermaid Tupperware came out best in the test. However, the young scientists determined that if any of the plastic is going into the food and being ingested, it is in such miniscule amounts, it will not harm anyone.
The health of one’s teeth was covered by a couple of stalls. Drew Lerikos, 12, and Jonathan Kjaerbo, 11, demonstrated the effects of different liquids, including milk, water, lemonade and Coca Cola, on teeth. They soaked eggs in the individual liquids for 24 hours and the results were a little alarming, especially for anyone who drinks a lot of Coke.
“Egg shells are made of similar material to teeth,” explained Drew. The results showed that the milk had little or no effect on the egg shell, lemonade left it a little discoloured and with a jagged texture, while the egg soaked in Coke left the shell discoloured, softer and generally awful-looking.
Kathleen Gracy, 16, carried out research to determine whether it would be a good idea to introduce fluoride into Cayman’s water supply. By weighing the pros and cons, she determined that we’re better off without fluoride in our water because of the myriad side effects it can have. The research has led her to stop using fluoride toothpaste, she said.
Another exhibitor also gave up using the subject of her project, following some experiments. Flynn Hope tested how long it takes mould to form on different kinds of bread. She discovered that it takes three days for mould to form on onion focaccia and six days to form on cheese bread, for example. Her experiment also showed that mould never formed on some white sliced bread from the supermarket. “It just went hard, no mould ever formed,” she said. “I don’t really want to eat bread anymore,” she said.
Another young scientist – and potential future mixologist – Dominic de Mercado, 12, is too young to taste his own project. He created a handmade still to produce vodka from potatoes and gave an informative demonstration of how to make the drink, showing a container of ‘potato juice’ that is then poured into a kettle with a copper pipe that leads to the liquid being distilled into alcohol.
In total, 65 students from 10 schools presented 45 projects for the fair.
1. Michael Sun
2. Arina Bain
3.Joshua McLaughlin and Antonio Angel
1. Sabrina Weber
2. Ashleigh Monica Josephs
1. Kathleen Gracy
2. Marissa Towell
3. Matthew Guitard
Food and health:
1. Abigail Natasha Lindsey
2. Tsin Zan Graham and Connor Hoeksema
3. Gabriela Roberts
Eden Anyawile (2nd place)