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Students rise to the nth power

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By The Staff

The number of budding scientists rose to the nth power on Saturday as the Los Alamos Public School District held the County Science Fair.

Two hundred twelve students entered individual, team and classroom projects. Los Alamos Middle School and Los Alamos High School doubled their number of entrants compared to the 2008 event.

Curriculum Coordinator Dawn Jalbert and her assistant Dawn Brown led a team of staff and volunteers to pull off the weekend event.

A large number of judges spent a good portion of Friday evening and most of Saturday at the LAHS cafeteria looking at projects that covered everything from mold and crystal growth to which cat litter is most absorbent.

The Friday-drop off included fourth- and fifth-grade students that were able to showcase their projects with the hope at a chance to win an iPod. One winner was selected randomly from several grade categories.

The donations by clubs, organizations and banks made it possible  for each science fair entry to receive a prize. A few donors were IEEE, Women in Science, Bandelier Grill, the Kiwanis Club, Morrie and Cheryl Pongratz, Ken and                 Kim Thomas, elementary PTO, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Assets In Action, NNMSME, Otowi Station, the Val C. Ogden Memorial awards, First National Bank of Santa Fe, Los Alamos National Bank, the Parent Hawks from Los Alamos Middle School and others.

One anonymous donor provided $300 in prizes, while the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee and Portage Environmental created free T-shirts to recognize participants and their hard work.

The first, second and third place winners from each category will now move on to the regional competition.

Kyle Partin, a Los Alamos Middle School student, is advancing to the next level. His nucleation nozzle or for all intensive purposes, snow gun, has actually been used to make the first man- made snow on Pajarito Mountain.

The gun construction idea began with planning in September and resulted in month-long construction prior to the fair.

“The stand is made out of an old drawing board with an angling table-top and height adjustment and two shelves at the base,” Partin said.

After construction, Partin received permission from Pajarito Mountain Ski Area Manager Tom Long to run the gun up at the ski hill.

“I ran through a check list, made sure everything was working and tight and then I let it run,” Partin said. “We started at 5:40  a.m. with 27 degree temp (a little bit too high), 37 percent humidity and a Wet Bulb temperature of 20 degrees, a little bit too high for snow making. The gun ran for 25 minutes, using 62.5 gallons of water.”

After learning the physics of snow making, doing a lot of construction and investing about 25 minutes, Partin had covered a 60 foot by 50 foot area with about 1/8 inch of good-quality snow.

Partin, along with other students, will advance to the regional science fair, which will be in March in Las Vegas, N.M.