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Soldiers help judge local middle school science fair

Photo by Sgt Austan R. Owen Tyler Cruise explains his science fair project to Sgt. Charles Sapp, HHC, 16th CAB.

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LAKEWOOD - "If this, then what?" is the basis for a hypothesis in a science experiment. So if you put 60 Soldiers together with hundreds of middle school children and have the Soldiers judge their science projects, what do you get? The hypothesis is a bunch of nervous Soldiers and children who eventually learn to laugh and have a good time.

Soldiers of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, spent the day judging science fair entries at Mann Middle School in Lakewood, Feb. 12, as part of a community connector event. Hundreds of sixth, seventh and eighth graders stood in front of their displays as the approximately 60 Soldiers evaluated students on their projects.

The students started their projects in early December with ideas that turned into science experiments. During the next few months, they used the scientific method to develop those ideas into exhibits to be judged.

For the Soldiers, the day started out with a briefing by the organizers of the science fair. They did their best to become subject-matter experts in a short time. The Soldier-judges were given instructions on how well each project conformed to the scientific method, the students' oral presentations and the accuracy of their data.

From that point the judges perused the projects, speaking with participants about how they proved or disproved their hypotheses. The only people more nervous in the room were the students who waited for their projects to be judged.

"Make sure you drag the information out of them if they are a little shy," said Rhonda Bostick, sixth grade teacher and science department chair. "They have been practicing on their presentation and should know what they are talking about."

Volunteers from the Army have been judging the competition for the past five years, Bostick said.

"We love having them out. We know the Soldiers love to come and the kids just love to have the Soldiers as judges," she said. "The Soldiers are going to learn a lot."

Many of the volunteer judges have children who attend local schools. One of the judges, Spc. Jacob Kim, a mechanic with 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th CAB, helped build projects with his two kids at home, he said.

Kim judged Chiara Klein's project "Electro Magnet."

"They have a lot of curiosity," he said. "Some of the projects can seem complicated but I like their attitude as they soar and learn."

The projects ranged from how long it takes milk to sour - Madeline Feltey's project ­- to extracting DNA from fruit in Tyler Cruise's "Fruitastic Extraction."

The day wasn't all about the science; For Cruise, it made an impact having Soldiers look at his project.

"They fight for our country and for them to come here and say that I did a pretty good job it should be the other way around," Cruise said. "I should be the one saying that they did a good job."

While the day went well and everyone seemed to have a good time, it was still a competition. Ten students in each grade will move on to the district fair. The winners will be announced in early March.

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