Pi Day at the Math and Science Fair

In honor of Pi day, I stopped by the 63rd annual DC Math, Science and Technology fair Saturday to see the next generation of mathematicians and scientists in DC public, charter and private schools.

The gymnasium at McKinley Technology High School was packed with hundreds of nervous teens and pre-teens and their poster board presentations. There were model cars and microscopic images and solar systems concocted with pipe cleaners and colored Styrofoam balls. All the projects were outlined with a hypothesis, procedure, materials, results, and a conclusion.

Students tackled such scientific questions as the effects of music on study, the effects of Prozac on mood, the effects of various kinds of zit creams on acne.

Tyler Jones. (Courtesy Yvonne Jones.)

Sixth grader Tyler Jones from Shepherd Elementary School won a blue ribbon from the Geological Society of Washington for exploring how the strength of wind power would change according to the direction of the wind. She modeled a wind turbine with a quaker oats can and a pinwheel and generated wind with her blow dryer.

Joy Nicholas. (Courtesy Yvonne Jones.)
Her classmate, Joy Nicholas, placed in the top three in the junior category for plant sciences with a project called "Thirsty Celery." She studied which kind of liquid would be absorbed best through the celery membranes: orange juice, orange soda, lemon juice, water, and vegetable oil. Joy said the orange juice was absorbed the fastest, but there were some problems with her water sample that cast some doubt on her final results.

Stephanie Guzman, a seventh grader from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, went home with two big trophies for her mathematics project.

She did some impressive research that many parents would probably find very helpful (and not a little discouraging).

What is the best way to save for college?
How much money will a Washington DC seventh grader need to invest this year to be able to afford four years of public college?

Stephanie predicted she would need $30,000.

After making a series of economic and financial predictions (the recession will last 3.5 years; inflation will remain steady), she researched various Certificates of Deposits and college savings plans and created a series of spreadsheets. (After trying to develop her own mathematical formula, she went with the compound interest formula).

In the end she found that her prediction was a lowball estimate. She would need to invest about $60,000 to have enough for college. Her mother, Marianne Scott, says she's not quite there yet.

Maybe with a few more math prizes, she will be a shoo-in for scholarships.


My guess is this will conjure memories for some of you. The closest I ever came to participating in a math and science fair was repeated submissions to the Invention Convention in middle school. My two best creations were the "Long Distance Lightswitch," great for kids who like to stay up reading long past their bed time, and the "Slumber Pack," a bag-and-blanket-in-one, perfect for slumber parties. I don't think I ever took home any trophies, though.

Do you remember your early science or math projects?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  March 15, 2009; 10:35 PM ET
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Michael, being that it was Pi Day, did you ask any of the kids if they knew about it? Especially since the House passed a resolution recognizing it (H.Res. 224 for anybody curious).

I remember doing silly science projects in middle school - one year, I investigated the effects of different cooking methods on the weight of a hamburger patty. Another, I measured shampoo lather with different temperature water. My 8th grade project actually turned into a pretty detailed research paper on pH, but the actual experiment of putting lemon juice into the soil of a plant was put off for so long that...well, let's just say that my results were quietly extrapolated.

I remember that the kids who had doctors for parents always seemed to do more scientific projects, usually with Latin names of nematoads or earthworms in them.

Posted by: tomsing | March 17, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and its Army and NIH partners were proud to sponsor the 63rd Annual DC Statewide Mathematics, Science and Technology Fair. The new DC STEM ALLiance of local scientists and engineers helped tremendously as well. STEM means science, technology, engineering and math, subjects that our area schools need interaction to teach! Students perform best with great local mentors. Teachers work very hard in their classrooms but area STEM professionals must help. Find a way to benefit the fair, mentor a fledgling scientist and be sure to be part of this wonderful celebration of talent next year (dcscifair.com or .org). DCPS leadership should also be part of the event along with lots of media. Thanks, Washington Post and Michael Alison Chandler for talking to these children and recognizing their work! Wish our young winners luck in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno, NV in May.

Posted by: FederalScientistandSTEMEducator | March 17, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I am thrilled to see that our students are continuing the quest for more knowledge in the core courses. I am a retired General Science and Biological Science teacher. On last Wednesday and Thursday, I assisted with the registration and preparation for the DC Science Fair at Mckinley Science and Technology High School. It was a joy to be in the mix again! It brought back such fond memories of my days with the City Wide Science Fair and setting up student's Project at Woodson Senior High School in NE Washington. Congratulations to the Winners of this year's Fair.

Martha Kinnard Forston

Posted by: forstonmkjohndavid40 | March 17, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

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