Central Lee students test run science projects

Retired Central Lee science teacher Ernie Schiller talks with students at Sundays' Central Lee Science Fair at the Lee County Conservation Center. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


MONTROSE – Central Lee High School students took part in a science project “scrimmage” on a rare Sunday display at the Lee County Conservation District.

About a dozen high school students presented projects ranging from algae ethanol, to oil-eating organisms.

Central Lee Science teacher Alicia Schiller Haynes brought the students to a Sunday judging at the conservation center at Heron Bend in Montrose. There was also a public viewing after the judging.

Claire Wills, a junior at Central Lee brought a project in that looked at the efficiencies of using algae to create ethanol, so that corn could be freed up for other uses such as feeding people.

Liza Alton speaks with Central Lee High School junior Claire Wills on Sunday afternoon at the Lee County Conservation Center during the Hawks local science fair. Wills investigated using algae an an alternative form of ethanol. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“We are using 40% of our corn to make gas, or biodiesel or anything to run machinery, and I wanted to create another form of ethanol so the corn could be used to feed more people and other things,” Wills said.

She said found using a ‘still’ of sorts to process algae through steam cooling into a liquid ethanol is just as efficient as using corn.

With ethanol being a huge political issue, Wills said she would leave that potential discussion for Iowans.

“I haven’t thought about it, but if we were able to use our corn to feed more people or we could even find another use for it, I feel Iowa companies would have the support for that,” she said.

She said it would be possible to even cut the use of corn for ethanol by half using the algae to supplement the other half.

Serenity Haynes looked at different bacteria and protozoa as a method to cleaning up oil spills and other harmful attacks on natural resources. as an expansion to a project she did last year that was selected for a judged fair in Seattle this week.

Haynes was picked as an alternate last year for the along with classmate Brianne Gruntmeier.

Gruntmeier looked at the impact of artificial sweeteners on digestion and overall weight gain by studying the effects of the products on male and female mice. She narrowed the study this year to just male mice.

Schiller Haynes said this was the local fair for the students to get geared up for regional fairs.

“They’re here and will get to work on their rapport and practice their speech and get ready for other fairs,” Schiller Haynes said.

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