- Cherryville Elementary School
Students win district, regional science fair honors
Students go virtual to demonstrate their science experiments and share their findings
While many activities have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, middle school and high school students in Gaston County are still actively engaged in developing their critical thinking skills through science and engineering.
With projects focusing on using salt to get more power out of the soil, determining which helmet protects your head the best, and deciding whether music increases student productivity, Gaston County Schools students demonstrated their experiments and shared their findings during the Gaston Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which was conducted virtually this year.
“In light of the current pandemic restrictions, the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation made the decision to hold all science fair competitions virtually this year,” explained Bianca Yavelak, who coordinates the local program. “Although participation was expectedly lower than usual, we were excited to still have more than 40 students put in the time and work to submit their independent research.”
Students were asked to submit a research paper along with a two-minute video presentation and written “interview” in lieu of the usual display board and interview session with judges. Community members volunteered their time to evaluate the projects.
Most of the students earning awards are enrolled in the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview High School. The virtual science fair might not have been the same experience as a face-to-face competition, but for students Abby Armstrong and Brianna Maga, getting to show their work still meant a lot.
“It was great that we could still submit our projects,” said Maga, who researched the height of bread by the age of the sourdough starter. “With a video presentation, I had to be extra thorough in my explanation; otherwise, the judges might have missed some details.”
Like Maga, this was Armstrong’s first year participating in the district’s science fair, and while she knew the virtual event would be different, she wanted to be sure to put her best effort forward.
“I didn’t want to stop after all the time I’d put into my project,” said Armstrong, who found that most of the cheaper disinfectants worked just as adequately at killing bacteria as the more expensive brands. “Making the video and answering the written interview definitely had a different dynamic than participating in person.”
One of the prerequisites for the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview is for ninth grade students to complete Honors Research Methods. The class is part of the Academy program that is designed to prepare students for success in college and beyond.
Integrating the science fair experience into Honors Research Methods prompts students to participate in research, exploration, and discovery on a topic that piques their interest.
“Students had to formulate their own questions and meet deadlines throughout the semester in order to have their projects finished,” said teacher Kurtis Richards. “They put in all the work necessary and did an incredible job.”
Richards added, “I am very proud of them, and it is a great representation of the quality of work and expectations for the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview High School.”
The county science fair also featured two brothers winning top prizes. Luigi and Nikki Bortolussi have enjoyed being involved in the annual competition since 2017.
Gaston Science Fair Winners
Here is a list of the Gaston Regional Science and Engineering Fair overall winners:
▪ Nikki Bortolussi, Mount Holly Middle School, “Using Salt to Get More Power Out of Soil”
▪ Abby Armstrong, Forestview High School, “Battle of Disinfectants”
▪ Brianna Maga, Forestview High School, “The Rise of Skystarter”
▪ Brittany Isaac, Forestview High School, “How Does the Position of a Plant Affect the Way It Grows?”
▪ Carly Craig, Forestview High School, “How Does Changing Your Center of Gravity Affect Your Balance?”
▪ Carter Robinson, Forestview High School, “Which Helmet Protects Your ‘Melon’ the Best?”
▪ James Gunter, Forestview High School, “Phosphates in Lake Wylie”
▪ Kaitlyn Anthony, Forestview High School, “Does Whitening Really Mean Brightening?”
▪ Madelyn Ludwig, Forestview High School, “Let’s Grow”
▪ Martin Inman, Forestview High School, “Have You Been Making Ice Cream the Right Way?”
▪ Molly Self, Forestview High School, “Does Music Increase Student Productivity?”
▪ Morgan Clark, Forestview High School, “A Colorful Test”
▪ Patrick Nanney, Forestview High School, “Music and the Heart”
▪ Luigi Bortolussi, Highland School of Technology, “Shedding Light on Contaminated Water”
Regional Science Fair Winners
The top-scoring submissions from the county competition were chosen to advance to the Region 6 North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair, which took place February 11-13 at UNC-Charlotte. The regional winners from Gaston County are eligible to compete in the state-level virtual competition, which will be hosted by N.C. State University in March.
Here is a list of the regional winners:
▪ Luigi Bortolussi, Highland School of Technology, “Shedding Light on Contaminated Water” Second Place, Physics and Math
▪ Carter Robinson, Forestview High School, “Which Helmet Protects Your ‘Melon’ the Best?” Third Place, Physics and Math
▪ Martin Inman, Forestview High School, “Have You Been Making Ice Cream the Right Way?” Third Place, Chemistry
▪ James Gunter, Forestview High School, “Phosphates in Lake Wylie” Third Place, Earth and Environmental Science