MOUNT VERNON — A quartet of young researchers at Mount Vernon High School and one from the middle school did well at the North Central District Science Day, held Saturday in Marion.
Katelyn Durbin and Zachary McQuigg, grade nine, both scored an excellent rating for their work. Durbin’s zoology project asked, “Do Peanuts Increase Egg Production?” She said her research proved hens do lay more when fed peanuts.
McQuigg received an excellent in the chemistry division for exploring the “Fat in my Food.” He examined the fat content in five different foods, and discovered that, of those tested, avocados contained the most fat, and corn the least.
Seventh-grader Andrew Powell earned a superior for his microbiology science fair project and was named the best in his category. He qualifies to compete at the state level, and said he is excited about going to state.
Powell’s project was called “The Effects of Cigarette Smoke on Ciliary Motion in Tetrahymena Pyriformis.” Pyriformis is a single-cell organism that he used as a model system, “because,” he said, “you can’t use a lung to test.”
Powell discovered that light and ultra-light cigarette smoke is not as harmful as regular cigarette smoke, but still has a real significant negative effect. He used a smoke machine to generate the smoke, then created a “smoky” extract the organisms ingested.
Mackenzie McClure, grade nine, earned a superior, as well as the Navy and Army awards and the award for the best project in chemistry. With her project, titled “How does the size and amount of Ti02 nanoparticles suspended in glycerin affect the scattering of different colors of lights?” she, too, qualifies to compete at the state level. Her research relates to the effectiveness of sunscreen.
Willa Kerkhoff, grade nine, presented a project in the behavioral and social sciences category. She explored “The effects of congruent and incongruent facial expressions on remembering the emotions of others,” and earned a superior rating. Kerkhoff also earned the best project trophy for the behavioral science category, a $300 scholarship to OSU Marion and the best project out of all ninth-graders.
Sparked by her interest in the different levels by which humans communicate, Kerkhoff decided to focus on facial expressions.
“I decided to look at how you remember someone’s emotions based on whether what they’re doing with their face matches,” she said.
To collect the data, she made slides, for example, of a happy face. The accompanying caption read “I am happy because I did this,” or “I am sad because I did this.” In other words, the face might match the statement, or it might not.
“I found that when the facial expressions matched [the statement], people remembered the emotion more often,” Kerkhoff said. “I also found that women remembered more often than men, and I found that as you get older you don’t remember as well. For the oldest age groups, when they matched, they remembered really well. I thought that might be because when you are a lot older, you maybe can’t trust yourself to remember spoken or written words so you use more visual cues and focus on facial expressions.”
In addition to moving on to the state science fair, Kerkhoff was chosen to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif., and won an all-expenses paid trip to the event.
“I’m really excited about that,” she said. “I don’t think there was anyone in that auditorium more shocked than me [sic]. I’m really excited to go. It’s a really great opportunity, especially as a freshman. ... I still think I’m dreaming.”