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JBLM soldier participate in school science fair

Students at Rainier interact with troops

Spc. Robbie Penalosa, of 593rd ESC, middle right, talks with fifth grader Jacob Mitchell, 10, about his “Activities and the Heart” project during a science fair at Rainier Elementary School Jan. 26. (JBLM PAO photo)

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From the decay and growth of candy submerged in various liquids to the affect of activity and inactivity on heart rates, fourth and fifth graders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Rainier Elementary School learned and shared a lot of hypotheses and synopses during the school’s annual science fair Jan. 26.

This year, the event was judged by 25 members of JBLM’s military police members — many who appeared to be learning as they judged.

“It’s so interesting,” said Sgt. Marcela Avina, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, as she took notes on one child’s project.

Avina said she was most impressed by one student who created a project on blood glucose testing because his mom previously had a tumor and he wanted to learn more about how sugars affect blood in humans. Avina is currently studying psychology at the University of Washington. She plans to eventually teach in an elementary school.

“I want to work with kids, so when I heard our unit was judging the science fair, I said, ‘Can I go?’” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Jacob Mitchell, a 10-year-old fifth grader in Tracy Fowler’s class, tested how leisure and activity affects heart beats. Jacob, who wants to someday become a neurosurgeon, tossed around medical terminology such as “medulla oblongata” — part of the brain stem which contains control centers for the heart and lungs.

This was the second time the youth has created a science project at the school. Last year, he based his project on the impact of alcohol in the bloodstream.

“Every hour, on average, 52 people die of alcohol-related incidents,” Jacob said. “A lot of people die from driving while intoxicated and others from alcohol poisoning.”

Fowler said she was impressed by Jacob’s project and others among about 150 children in Rainier’s fourth and fifth grades participating in the science fair this year.

“Holy moley, these kids are so advanced,” Fowler said, who’s been a teacher for more than 20 years. “One of the fourth graders did a project on the center of gravity for cars, another on different kinds of lights and another on memory and how music can affect what you remember. The kids came up with some wonderful projects.”

Roger Wendt, a fifth-grade teacher, said he and the other five Rainier fourth- and fifth-grade teachers gave each student a packet of information back in November as well as a web address for a site with science project ideas. There was a timeline for the process — over winter break students and their parents were expected to work together to create a project for the child to display and discuss at the event.

Having help from a parent makes a lot of difference on how excited kids are to present their project, according to Pfc. Demetrius Ross, 508th Military Police Battalion, 42nd MP Bde.

“I remember when I did a science project (as a child), I wasn’t very interested, but my parents didn’t help me,” Ross said.

“I like your project,” Ross asked fifth grader Aydin Macugay, who tested gummy bears and how the candy absorbed milk, vinegar or water when soaked in the liquids for several days. “What did you learn?”

Aydin said he was surprised that the candy reacted differently to the different kinds of liquid.

His classmate, Kacie Weinerth, also selected the gummy bear test from the 2,000 suggestions for science projects on the website — however, Kacie’s project involved different kinds of liquids and ways of measuring outcomes.

“I found that tonic water and ice tea caused the gummies to grow the biggest,” she said. “My project taught me about osmosis and how liquid can’t go straight through the candy.”

Kacie’s friend, Lindsey Gerber, 10, also created a science project. Lindsey said she loves science and hopes to be a veterinarian someday.

Her project involved testing various widths of wires connected to batteries to determine how bright the light bulbs burned and if the wire size changed the intensity of the light.

“My project is amazing,” Lindsey said. “I love science because you get to deal with elements and explain nature.”

Leonardo “Leo” Louie, another fifth grader in Wendt’s class, didn’t get a lot of answers with his project, entitled “Gifts from the Sky,” but, his project was of interest to science fair judge, Spc. Zachary Smith, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd MP Bde.

Leo’s project was designed to measure how different weighted objects fell to the ground when dropped by a small parachute.

“There were so many variables (regarding the objects dropped),” Leo said. “It was difficult to come up with relationships between the data.”

Despite this, Smith said he liked the project because of all of the work involved, as well as Leo’s presentation.

“I think Leo did a really good job,” Smith said. “He kept eye contact with me when he talked, and he had a really well thought out display board. I judged several projects today, and I think this was one of the best.”

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