Hawks swoop into National STEM Festival

Newton and Hohl taking projects to symposium in Washington D.C.

Central Lee 8th graders Caedon Newton, left, and Addison Hohl, right, pose with Central Lee science teacher Amanda Myhre at a recent STEM event. The two students have been selected to present their projects at a national symposium in Washington D.C. next month.
Central Lee 8th graders Caedon Newton, left, and Addison Hohl, right, pose with Central Lee science teacher Amanda Myhre at a recent STEM event. The two students have been selected to present their projects at a national symposium in Washington D.C. next month.
Courtesy photo

DONNELLSON – They use words and phrases like visual studio code, Arduino, and bioreactors, and it’s not the engineering department at Climax.
The “they” here is a couple of 13-year-old students at Central Lee Junior High.
Caedon Newton, son of Chase and Sara Newton, and Addison Hohl, daughter of Adam and Julie Hohl, have both had projects selected as finalists for the National STEM Festival April 11-13 in Washington D.C.
The two projects were among just 128 nationwide to be selected for the first-ever symposium out of more than 2,500 applicants in 6th – 8th grade from across the country. The two were part of 280 finalists who were selected to make the trip. The event is a non-judged event and it's a chance to showcase their projects and network with other STEM-oriented students and mentors.
The 2024 National STEM Challenge is a competition for students presented by the U.S. Department of Education and EXPLR, an organization focused on providing middle and high school students virtual and hands-on learning resources. The National STEM Challenge encourages students to design a STEM project using scientific method or engineering design processes.
Hohl’s project is one near and dear to agriculture people. Her parents Adam and Julie Hohl own Harvestville Farm in Donnellson and are interested in the reduction of nitrogens from fertilizer runoff into natural and man-made waterways.
“I was trying to find a way to reduce levels of nitrogen in runoff water from fields. There is a thing called a bioreactor and I tested it with different biodegradable materials to find out which one could remove the most nitrogen,” Hohl said.
“I tested it with four different materials, wheat straw, rice straw, oat straw, and special wood chips and which one would remove the most nitrogen.”
She said the nitrogen can work its way down to what is called “The Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where algae is produced by the nitrogen runoff, constricting other aquatic life.
Newton created a sensory reaction meter that he used to time stimulus reactions and used the information to code distracted driving response times.
He used coding and digital technology to build the device.
“Coding and technology are things I love to do in my spare time. That brought me to autonomous cars and I found that over one million people pass away in car accidents every year and I wanted to see what I could do to reduce that number,” he said.
“So I tested auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli as I thought they would be the most beneficial to driver reaction times.”
The gadget, a small black box with two buttons and some sensory panels, can test people’s reaction times to different stimuli.
A small circle appears for the visual test and, when subjects see the circle, they press a button and the box registers the time it took to press the button. It can also make a noise and register time to hit the button, and then the tactile is a touch sensor where a small plate moves and the subject again has to hit a button.
Newton then programmed a code to convert reaction time to stopping distance to formulate how far a car travels while a driver is reacting to one of the three stimuli.
“I also tested with no distractions and a video of children yelling to simulate children yelling in the back of a car,” Newton said.
“I also had them text a phrase on their phone while I was testing.”
Newton tested 30 people 27 times for a total of 864 data points. He said most of the testing was done at basketball games in conference rooms and wherever he could find time to test volunteers.
Teacher Amanda Myhre said the event is brand new and to have two student projects chosen from Central Lee is incredible in the first year.
“It’s pretty exciting. For something brand new like this, and I didn’t even know about it,” she said.
Newton said he has aspirations of industrial engineering and the project has fueled that energy. Hohl said she doesn’t know about going into the family business.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” she chuckled.
She said she’s making her own path. Her brother Jacob is also a decorated science fair student and went into business in college.
The two were notified of their selection by Addison’s parent who found the announcement on the website.
“I enjoy the types of projects they have. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are both equally interesting as the others,” Myhre said.
The festival pays for the student and a parent to travel to Washington.

Central Lee, Caedon Newton, Addison Hohl, STEM, science, projects, National Stem Festival, projects, Amanda Myhre, news, education, students, Pen City Current


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