Science fair winners show projects at Chabot
By Alan Lopez, Correspondent
Oakland Tribune, 06/05/2008
Sharing space with the elaborate and sometimes futuristic exhibits at the Chabot Space and
Science Center recently were cardboard, Petri dishes and many enthusiastic young people.
Continuing a tradition going back many years, the science center hosted the Oakland Unified
School District K-12 Science Fair.
Some 200 projects were chosen from 34 schools, nearly all of them elementary schools.
Between 300 and 400 people were expected to roam the sleek halls of the science center during
the two-hour reception for students and their families held on May 21.
While the presentation was non-competitive, the projects presented were science fair winners at
their respective schools.
Robert Ade, a public relations specialist with Chabot, noted that a common theme among some
of the projects involved the study of germs. Overall, the projects were "very entertaining," he
One project pondered the question of whether boys or girls had more germs. Another looked at
the science of closing toilet seats.
Using a store-bought germ-testing kit, Thornhill Elementary School fifth-graders Tom Robertson
and Michael Hull studied the amount of potentially life-threatening coliform bacteria in Lake
They tested the water both at the docks and then paddled in a canoe to test the water in the
middle of the lake. The results: The dock contained more bacteria. But Michael noted that the kit
was more than three years old and believed better results would come from a more recent kit.
"Basically, our results were: The water is safe enough to sail in," Michael said. "But I still don't
think that's true."
Joaquin Miller fifth-grader Abigail Hornig eschewed germs in favor of studying aerodynamics,
an idea she said came from her father, a freelance trombone player.
The project involved testing about half a dozen swaying blocks of different shapes and sizes.
Abigail imbedded pennies into the foam to give them the same weight and used wire, popsicle
sticks and duct tape to neatly hold them onto a horizontal wooden bar, similar to a swing set.
A day of testing proved Abigail's hypothesis correct — the biggest square foam piece would
sway the farthest given a particular jet of air — in this case, a hair dryer.
"I'm really proud because my dad said I was the first on his side to win in a science fair," Abigail
Abigail's mother, Heather Swallow, said her two older daughters have excelled in math and
science and said it spoke highly of the work being done in the Oakland Unified School District.
Overall, the projects ran the gamut from the silly to the remarkably precocious.
One examined how soda affects teeth; another, the average number of licks it takes to get to the
center of Tootsie Pop candy.
One, entitled "A Convenient Truth" looked at the effectiveness of "green" cleaning products.
Among the three products tested, classic cleaner Borax was the best at wiping out vegetable oil
and ketchup stains. According to the project, it's also considered a "green" product by the
Environmental Protection Agency.