Billy Huggins, a judge at the science fair looks over and scores the entries from high school students from around the region during the 2013 Science Fair Exposition held at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Thursday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the site Thursday for the 2013 Science Fair Exposition, where ninth-grader Jacob Andersen of Ridgway Christian School won Best of Fair for his project “Plant vs. Oil: A Study of Phytoremediation in Arkansas Aquatic Plants.”
The competition at UAPB’S health, phyiscal education and recreation complex attracted nearly 200 students in grades seven through 12 from schools throughout the region in spite of the cold, stormy weather conditions Thursday morning.
Anissa E. Buckner, chair of the Science Fair Committee at UAPB, was pleased with the turnout and with the quality of the 172 student projects.
“We had excellent participation considering the weather,” Buckner said. “The students had to stand in front of experts and explain their projects so it really gave them good experience with presentation skills.”
Linda Okiror, committee member and assistant dean of the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, shared Buckner’s assessment of the event.
“From our perspective this has been a huge success,” Okiror said. “The students put in a tremendous amount of work.”
Mattie Collins was serving as a judge in the category of earth/planetary science at the competition.
“Of course their projects are wonderful,” Collins said of the student work. “The kids are so into what they are doing. Everyone needs to know that our kids are going to be OK. I’m also impressed that a lot of their parents had input, with dads helping construct graphs and charts and moms helping with research. It means a lot when you get parental participation because when you do you are going to have students who excel.”
UAPB Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mary Benjamin, who has been a key figure in the development of the school’s STEM Scholars Academy, was the master of ceremonies for the awards ceremony.
“The great turnout today in spite of the bad weather shows you that there are a lot of people who are excited by science,” Benjamin said. “Through activities like this UAPB hopes to ignite a flame of interest in the sciences in middle through high school students.”
Latauna Perkins is a chemistry and physics instructor at Dollarway High School and was the sponsor for seniors Whitney Wright and Juana Boone, who entered the team competition with a project attempting to determine what colors go into black inks.
“In their project they were trying to determine the chemical components used in black ink,” Perkins said. “They started working on it back in November.”
Wright, who will attend the University of Central Arkansas in the fall of 2013, plans to major in chemistry.
“We started doing research on the Internet to decide what we wanted to do and Juana saw this and said that’s what we should do,” Wright said. “We looked at the components of black ink in permanent markers, pens and washable markers. We made paper chromotography testing strips out of coffee filters and dipped the strips into solvent to get the component colors to come out. The black washable marker had blue, purple, yellow and green as its component colors.”
Wright said her uncle is a chemist and she hopes to follow in his footsteps.
“Juana is going to LSU and hopes to become a biochemist,” Wright said of her teammate, who was temporarily away from the competition.
Alan Noll teaches eighth- and ninth-grade science at Jack Robey Junior High School and brought four students to the competition.
“They’ve really had a great time,” Noll said. “Kamarius Christopher and Ronni Knox were in the team competition and entered a project where they dissected a sheep eyeball and compared its anatomy to the human eye. That’s not something that your typical junior high school student typically gets to do.”
Noll said the other two Jack Robey students in the competition were Sadagicous Owens and Toree Flenon.
Dorothy McFadden also teaches science at Jack Robey.
“Based on the enthusiasm they expressed at lunch they really enjoyed this experience,” McFadden said. “We got some good feedback. One of our students said they were very pleased with their project.”
Participating schools included White Hall High School; Dollarway High School; Watson Chapel Junior High School; Jack Robey Junior High School; Pine Bluff High School; Stuttgart High School; Ridgway Christian School; Little Rock Central High School; Little Rock Fair High School; Mabelvale Magnet School; and Dunbar Middle School.