BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – They had to work at it, but Holy Trinity Catholic students were able to hold an in-person science fair Wednesday at the HTC Elementary in West Point.
Donned in masks and with temperatures taken upon arrival, HTC high school students stepped up to judge the science projects from students of different ages in the school’s gymnasium.
HTC Science coordinator Ernie Schiller, who is in his 50th year of prepping students for science fairs, said they had to do things different this year, and numbers were down, but the administration and teachers decided they could do something in a safe fashion.
With spread of the coronavirus at the lowest levels since the outbreak began, Schiller said the students wanted to try and do something in person.
Twenty students came up with 16 projects ranging from investigating Saturn’s rings to neutralizing e.coli, to whether a motorcycle is quicker with a clutch or automatic shifting.
HTC junior Jack Blint worked on altering the genetic makeup of E.coli in a lab setting by adding DNA strands. He said the project was just to fine tune his lab technique as he wanted to do something more serious next year.
“I plan to do something bigger next year and more serious and wanted to get my lab technique down. Some applications could be to alter bacteria for other purposes like creating a super cleaner or something along those lines,” he said.
Blint said introducing genes to the E.coli was a little intimidating, but said he ran the project about five times to get the technique down.
“The first two times were failures and we couldn’t get anything to work. (Schiller) was there mentoring me, but a lot of this was on my own, too. This is actually the fifth one. The fourth one was iffy on results, but this one went well and was the one we decided to do the project on.”
Blint said ultimately he would like to see if he can take a bacteria and kill it on something it should typically survive on.
Schiller said getting the projects up and going was difficult with the COVID pandemic.
“This has been the most trying year. I’m an old guy and I didn’t get my vaccine until the Feb. 18, the first one, and I was very nervous about coming in.” Schiller said.
“But I get it. The kids don’t want to do a virtual science fair, period. I think the thing that bothers me the most with them is there’s no incentive to share your project and excitement with a judge virtually.”
Max Kruse and Corby Moeller took to the road to try and sort out which dirt bike was safer for children wanting to ride for the first time.
“We really were trying to see which dirt bike was faster, the ones with a clutch or without. It turns out that it really doesn’t matter. It’s just what the driver is most used to,” Kruse said.
Kruse admitted that the result is also determined by how good the driver is moving through the gears on the bike.
He said some bikes are tougher to shift and the bike he used for his part of the experiment had a tougher shifting procedure.
“I used a bike I’m not used to so I kind of messed up on that one,” Kruse said.
Schiller said it was more difficult this year with just the 16 projects, than it was last year where 60 students had 45 projects. Most of the work was done with zoom before Schiller was vaccinated.
“For a while I was zooming with the kids and then felt more comfortable after getting my first vaccine.”
But with the assistance of several teachers and the principal, tables were spaced out, student judges came in with masks and a clipboard, and the show was on.
Pilot Grove Savings Bank sponsored the top awards and Alan Adams sponsored the Inspiring Excellence Awards.