KENT: Mixing scientific esoterica and did-you-ever-wonder practicality, students presented more than 300 projects at the Northeast Ohio STEM Project Fair in the Kent State University student center ballroom on Saturday.
Students from grades four through 12 in area schools stood beside posters that were sometimes as tall as themselves.
As judges and a few visitors roamed through the rows of displays before the fair opened to the public, students showed off detailed descriptions of their experiments, along with carefully assembled notebooks of their research.
Sometimes, they stepped aside to allow pictures of their displays, or clustered with others to discuss their work and other matters.
Alongside such formidable topics as How image quality affects 3D reconstruction with multiple images and Time dependent properties of polymers and their measurements, you also could find presentations on:
• Tennis elbow: the damage a serve can cause to the elbow (complete with a picture of a wood-and-spring model simulating elbow movement).
• Behavioral science of makeup.
• The effect of chewing gum on test scores.
• Music tempo and task performance.
• And What is the best milk product for your smoothie?
Robin Selinger, a Kent State professor in its Liquid Crystal Institute and a host of the fair, said it began as one of several efforts by a group of Hudson parents to support science education, first as the Hudson STEM Alliance and now as the Northeast Ohio STEM Alliance. STEM programs focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The first fair was held in the Hudson Library, after which it moved to Hudson Middle School. It has been held at Kent State for three years now.
The fair is “ringing the doorbell to a science career” by giving young people a shot at hands-on work, Selinger said.
Contestants have a chance to advance to state, regional and even international competitions. More than 30 projects from the 2013 fair moved on. A list of the 2014 prize winners is at neohstem.org.
Selinger said having the fair at Kent State exposes the students to the scientific-study opportunities at the university.
Vonn Wheatley, a seventh-grader at Stanton Middle School in Kent, has a different goal. He hopes to run his own business making games.
But other participants are considering science-related careers.
Nadia Graham, a freshman at Hudson High School, said she was thinking about becoming a doctor — although she was not sure what kind.
Allison Robins, a Hudson sophomore, also aims to become a doctor.
Nadia’s project involved five photographs of individuals in different settings, then asked observers to guess the occupations of the people.
She then analyzed what sort of cues, such as ethnicity, the observers drew on to figure out the occupations.
One photo, of a ballerina, seemed obvious while others were more challenging. A man standing in front of framed newspaper articles looked like a journalist to some participants in the experiment — when, Nadia said, he was actually a rocket scientist and the articles were about him.
Allison, meanwhile, studied possible dangers of cellphone use while driving, specifically whether a Bluetooth device is less dangerous than a handheld phone. Being a new driver herself, she was curious about the issue.
But she did not test it on people who were actually driving. Instead, she devised other means to see how quickly people responded to events while on their phones.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture and other topics for the Beacon Journal. He is also on Facebook and, as @RHeldenfelsABJ, on Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.