Spotlight on students’ bright – and practical – ideas at Science Fair

It was weird science meets everyday life at the Brevard Intracoastal Regional Science and Engineering Fair last weekend at Merritt Island Mall.

“I was looking for something relevant and I said, ‘Hey, wait a second, this is my first school year with diabetes,’” Delaura Middle School seventh-grader Kael Thomas said when asked how he got the idea for his project titled “Sugar Versus Sugar Alcohol.”

Kael was recently diagnosed with diabetes and in the past several months he has learned a lot about monitoring his glucose levels. So he wondered: How much sugar do artificial sweeteners contain?

He used glucose test strips and other methods to conduct his experiment.

“I found Splenda does have carbs so it’s not actually sugar-free,” Kael said.

He added that the amount of sugar is Splenda is miniscule and not a concern for him.

Kael himself uses high-tech science every day to monitor his blood sugar through a device on his stomach that sends a signal to his smartphone every five minutes.

“It has kept me from having a hypoglycemic attack,” he said.

While not all of the young scientists had the close personal connection to their projects like Kael, many did draw from their surroundings or experiences.

Violet Sibol, a ninth-grader at Satellite High, had always heard that people, girls in particular, value attractiveness more than intelligence.

“It’s the classic brains vs. beauty,” Violet said of her project, titled “Face Value.”

She surveyed 102 of her peers, both male and female, and asked them to rate their feelings on statements such as “I would rather be the most attractive person in my school than the most intelligent” and “I would rather date someone who is attractive than someone who is intelligent.”

About 80 percent of the girls and 72 percent of the boys indicated they valued intelligence more than attractiveness.

“I was surprised by the results,” Violet said. “I think they’re overwhelmingly positive.”

She hopes those that did say they value looks over smarts will realize the impact that kind of thinking has on both themselves and others.

“If we can get them to change their mindset, that can affect how they do in school and their employability,” Violet pointed out.

Chloe Biby, a seventh-grader at Hoover Middle School, was concerned about plastic in the food chain, specifically in table salt. She’s always been interested in the environment and had read several studies about microplastics polluting our oceans and infiltrating the foods we consume.

She tested the amount of microplastics in several types of table salt from different regions – specifically the Arctic, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Her project was titled “Microplastics, Are You There?”

Chloe used a microscope and a special tool called a Sediment Microplastics Separation Unit to examine different types of salt. She found salt from the Indian Ocean had the most microplastics in it.

“That’s the salt my family eats,” she said.

She was also pleased to note that Atlantic Ocean salt contained the least amount.

Satellite High ninth-grader Dorit Goldstein got the inspiration for her “Spirulina – A Cancer Predator?” project from algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon. Spirulina is a nutritional supplement that occurs naturally in algae. It has been shown in some tests to attack breast cancer cells.

“If there’s an algae bloom then obviously there’s lots of it and you could use it for something good,” Dorit said.

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