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Kuemper projects get high marks

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The nearly 140 projects by 253 students in Kuemper Catholic High School’s recent science fair gave visitors insight into an array of topics and questions.

Here’s a sampling: “Does Dog Saliva Kill Germs?,” “Memory: Male Vs. Female,” “Bacteria in Our School,” “Solar Hot Dog Cooker,” “Are You Quicker Than a 3-Year-Old? and “Trebuchet,” a medieval launching weapon.

Students and teachers welcomed the opportunity to return to the traditional science fair in the school gym after the coronavirus pandemic forced cancelation last year.

In fact, this year’s fair was opened to more participants. There were two entries from the high school’s Family and Consumer Science Department and 18 from seventh- and eighth-graders from the St. Angela Center.

High school ninth- through 11th-graders were required to enter projects, and participation was optional for 12th-graders.

“The quality of projects has grown from year to year, with this year seeming to take a larger step in improvement,” Kuemper chemistry teacher Martha Stout said.

Stout teamed with biology and anatomy teacher Ann Pottebaum and physical science and physics teacher Andrew Klenk to organize the fair.

Students and their projects were judged on the following criteria:

— Shares understanding of the scientific method through oral presentation.

— Shows use of the scientific method through display board.

— Speaks knowledgeably about the project.

— Presents data using well-organized tables, graphs and charts.

— Shows enthusiasm and interest in the project.

Top three winners in each category and their topics were:

Physical Science — 1, Harrison Tiefenthaler and Alex Osterhaus, “Trebuchet.” 2, Lauren Boell and Kaci Peter, “Peppermint Affect Reaction Time.” 3, Izzy Boes and Tristan Foley, “Extracting DNA From Fruit.”

Biology — 1, Keziah Janssen and Vivian Meyers, “The Power or Aquaponics.” 2, Macy Simons, “Does Music Affect the Brain?” 3, Sada Gehling and Griffin Volquartsen, “Does Dog Saliva Kill Germs?”

Chemistry — 1, Kamryn Venner and Kora Thomsen, “Christmas Chemistry.” 2, Garrett Christensen, “Effects of Acid Rain on Plant Growth.” 3, Alyssa Ervelli, “Cleaning Coins.”

Some students did projects on their own, while many others opted to work in pairs.

Sixteen judges divided up to view the projects and visit with the students.

Judges represented a wide range: nursing instructors and students, St. Anthony Regional Hospital and Nursing Home staff members, a retired dentist, the St. Anthony chaplain and more.

Judges were recruited by Mary Schon, who graduated from Kuemper in 1972 and went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in biology and biology education from Mount Marty University in Yankton, South Dakota, her master’s degree in biology from the University of South Dakota and her doctorate in agronomy and plant physiology from the University of Missouri. She worked 17 years at Disney’s Epcot Theme Park in Florida, starting as a plant nutritionist, then becoming plant science coordinator and finally serving as manager of science communication. After leaving Epcot, she worked six to seven years at the Krell Institute in Ames before she retired.

Schon said of the science fair judges, “Our role was to listen, to ask questions and to just let the students shine. They have a lot of information to share and are eager to do so. You never know when a conversation you have with a student may spark that ongoing interest in science. That’s what you hope, even if it’s one or two a year.”

Schon, who helped with the fair for the third year, observed, “(The students) all did a good job of preparing their posters. Almost all of them were professionally done. They spent a lot of time on that. I’d say the quality this year was higher, so I was happy to see that. … Almost all of them that I had an opportunity to talk to did a good job of communicating, which of course is a life lesson that’s going to be important no matter what field they end up going into.”

Stout added, “Many benefits are gained, whether the students realize it or not. They’re learning how to choose a partner and work with that person, determining a science topic that meets the requirements of their science class, designing their project, researching, how to collect their data and graph their data, and presenting their project, their ideas to a judge.”

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