ASHLAND – A trio of top middle school students learned valuable lessons and earned impressive awards at the state science fair contest.
Ashland-Greenwood sixth graders Ellie Stein, Jaycee Fangmeyer and Will Bergsten qualified for the Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences State Science Fair by placing in the top six at the Southeast Regional Science Fair.
At the state competition, Ellie was awarded a Top 10 medal for her project, which she called “A Girl and her Beanstalk.” She was the only sixth grader in the group, which included students in grades 6 to 8.
“When they said my name, I said, ‘Wow!’” Ellie recalled.
Ellie’s project compared how well soybeans grew when provided different types of liquids for moisture. She used distilled water, orange juice, vinegar and milk. Water proved to be the winner in her experiment.
Family ties helped Ellie choose her project. Her father works at a co-op in Ceresco, so she had easy access to soybean seeds. And she has experience working the soil at her grandparent’s house.
“I like to help my grandpa in their garden,” she said.
Jaycee’s idea for her experiment came from looking out her back door. She lives on an acreage teeming with deer and other wildlife.
So she decided to test which flavor of salt blocks are favored by her neighborhood deer. It turns out they liked the sugar beet flavor over apple and acorn.
“I love hunting and I see lots of deer so I thought it would be interesting,” she said.
Her science fair entry, which she titled “Deer Delight,” earned two awards at the state contest – a $50 prize from Walmart for project creativity and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Outstanding Project Award.
One winter day, Will was waiting for a friend to arrive at this house and worried that the ice-covered driveway could be slippery. That gave him the idea for his science fair project, “Ice Ice Maybe,” which measured which type of salt melts ice cubes the fastest.
He tested table salt, sea salt and rock salt used for making ice cream. Table salt won the race.
Will received an award from Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and a T-shirt for Excellence in Project Demonstration at the state science fair. He was very happy with his awards.
“All I wanted was a participation award,” he said.
Will’s favorite part of science fair competitions is demonstrating to the judges.
“I love talking in front of a huge group of people,” he said.
At each competition, the students had to give an oral presentation to the judges. The judges also looked over the visual aids and the research each student compiled in a three-ring binder. Their binders also included reports and data.
“It was a lot of work and research,” said Ellie.
All three students said they learned valuable lessons from competing in the regional and state science fairs.
“I learned hard work pays off,” said Will.
The trio also realized that procrastinating on their project is not a good idea.
“I learned to get it done early,” said Jaycee.
Will said he started a little late on his project, but he made up for it by rehearsing his presentation many times.
“I practiced a lot,” he said.
They also learned from sixth grade teacher Kristi Bundy that science fair presentations don’t have to be totally serious.
“Mrs. Bundy said to have some humor,” said Jaycee.
So Jaycee added a story about raccoons trying to steal her salt blocks into her presentation. And Will sang the song “Ice, Ice Baby” but
changed the words to “Ice, Ice Maybe.”
Each student started working on their science fair project in September, fine tuning it for the school science fair on Jan. 28. That night, 11 projects were chosen to advance to the 2019 Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences Southeast Regional Science Fair March 29 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at the end of the March.
At regionals, Ellie, Jaycee and Will earned three of the top six spots, which qualified them to move on to the state level in the senior and junior division. They also received a $500 scholarship for their top finish at regionals.
The state competition was held April 11 at Nebraska Wesleyan University.