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Students to show their smarts at county

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By Kirsten Laskey

Using everything from Petri dishes to Bunsen burners, local students explored the world around them and tested their theories about it. Their discoveries will be revealed during the Los Alamos County science fair.The county science fair will be held Saturday at the Los Alamos High School cafeteria. The public is invited to attend the fair from noon-2:30 p.m. Additionally, people can participate in an award ceremony at 4 p.m. in Duane Smith Auditorium.Students enrolled in Los Alamos Public Schools, home school programs and private schools are encouraged to participate in the fair.Fourth- through fifth-graders are included in the elementary division, while sixth- through 12th-graders participate in the junior and senior division.Students in the junior and senior division can select from 17 categories to do their project. Three categories are available to the elementary division.“It’s not just a science fair,” Dawn Brown, science fair coordinator, said. “The fair encompasses not only science projects but engineering projects ee bio chemistry (and) animal science ee it really encompasses all aspects of our life.”A number of criteria are used to evaluate projects. However, Brown said the score sheet mainly pertains to sixth through 12th grade. Judges look for adequate data to support a conclusion, originality, clarity, thoroughness, presentation and other criteria.First through third place winners in each category will be able to attend the regional fair in March in Las Vegas. There are also state and national competitions.Last year, out of about 180 students who participated in the county fair, 33 students advanced to regionals, Brown said.The number of students participating in this fair is not finalized yet, she said.Brown said the majority of students participating in the fair are in the elementary school. She really encourages students in seventh through 12th grade to get involved in the science fair.“I think its good way (for students) to do research and a project in areas that really interest them,” Brown said.Several students from Aspen Elementary School are all set to go to the fair. They showed their work during their school’s science fair Wednesday.Collin Hemez, a sixth-grader, is one of those students. His project studied an alternative way to charge an i-Pod, using solar power.He concluded although the sun’s energy worked to recharge an i-Pod’s battery, it wasn’t reliable.During this project, “I really enjoyed learning about electronics,” Hemez said. “It’s really fun to do this because it’s like art, although you don’t think about it that way.”Not only does Hemez plan to attend the county science fair, but he has “high hopes” to continue to the regional competition.He has been to the county fair in the past. “It’s just a fun way to show your project to the county,” Hemez said.Some of Hemez’s peers will be joining him at the county science fair. Fifth-grader Hannah Hallikainen will be taking her project, which studied organisms in water and snow, to the science fair.Her favorite part of doing this project, she said, was looking at microorganisms through a microscope.Hallikainen is also a science fair veteran. She attended the county event last year. Her first experience was success; she said she received $40 and hopes to win an award this year.Fourth-grader Jacob Hollesinger, who studied the effects of vinegar and other mediums on steel and copper, will also be participating in the county fair for the first time.He said he is looking forward to seeing what other students have produced for their projects.