Getting schooled in science at District 15 Lake-to-River Science Day

Valley students descend on YSU for event

Judge Tom Cvetkovich of Youngstown, left, listens closely as Beaver Local student Cameron Sullivan, 16, of Lisbon, explains his science project “Will field position affect nodule growth?” during the annual District 15 Lake-to-River Science Day on Saturday at Youngstown State University. Students in grades 5 through 12 from Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties who won their school science fairs participated. Top performing students from Saturday will compete at the state level in April.

YOUNGSTOWN — When it comes to adding a bit of prestige to his science project and having it seen and critiqued, you could say Bryan Lee Kibler hit the nail on the head — or, perhaps more literally, on the hinge.

“Pine wood is less durable than cherry. I dropped a hammer on a hinge three times on three different nails in oak, pine and cherry,” Bryan, 13, a student at McKinley Elementary School in Lisbon, explained.

Bryan’s science project, titled, “You Nailed it! Hammering Force for Different Types of Wood,” was among the entries that made it into Saturday’s District 15 Lake-to-River Science Day 2023 in Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium. The show was open to public, private and parochial school students in grades five to 12 from Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

Sponsoring the three-hour gathering were YSU and the Ohio Academy of Sciences.

The students were challenged to adhere to the scientific method by developing a hypothesis and an abstract, then showing the procedures, research, visuals, materials and graphs they used and the conclusions at which they arrived.

Clovis Linkous, a YSU chemistry professor and one of the Science Day judges, noted that the projects were scrutinized on students’ oral, visual and written presentations, as well as how coherently they answered questions pertaining to their work. They also had to “conversationally and logically” describe the processes they used, Linkous said.

Bryan’s abstract and hypothesis centered on testing the durability of cherry, oak and pine wood and, specifically, proving or disproving whether cherry is more durable than pine.

Evan McGown, 16, a Beaver Local High School sophomore, took on the challenge of ascertaining whether macroinvertebrates are affected by stream water quality and runoff from golf courses. Macroinvertebrates, which are insects in their larval and nymph stages, also can be used to gauge the level of pollutants in a body of water, he explained.

For his science project, Evan tested samples in Beaver Creek State Park and under the state Route 7 bridge in East Liverpool, via using a special net to scoop a variety of macroinvertebrates, he recalled.

“Overall, the stream was not affected by golf course runoff,” he said about the project’s conclusion.

For Ciarra Kascsak, 11, her dip into the scientific realm was personal, as well as a tool she hopes to use to educate others.

“I did research on how exercise affects blood sugar. I felt that people were uneducated about diabetes and make assumptions that aren’t true,” Ciarra, a fifth-grader at John F. Kennedy Catholic School-Lower Campus in Warren, said.

Ciarra, who is a competitive dancer and has Type 1 diabetes, had a three-part hypothesis that examined the relationship between her blood sugar levels and no exercise, light exercise and moderate-to-heavy exercise. She found that her levels increased significantly in the first two categories, yet dropped with moderate-to-heavy exercise.

An estimated 13,000 Type 1 diabetes diagnoses are made in the U.S. annually, which also provides “a very good way for some people to learn about it,” she observed.

Kenley Weikart, a McKinley Elementary fifth-grader, looked at the absorption rates of light in varying hues of color, and theorized that dark colors absorb more light than light ones. For her experiment, she used six jars of water wrapped in different colors of paper near a heat lamp before taking their temperatures on three trials.

Her results showed higher water temperatures in the jars with darker paper, a conclusion that has “real-world” applications.

“Solar panels work best when they are black, because they can absorb more light, and more light means more energy,” Kenley concluded.

“From a young age, I’ve been interested in pollinators and bees,” said Lea MacMichael, 14, a Geneva Middle School student.

Her project dealt a lot with propolis, a natural resin-like substance honey bees produce from materials they collect from parts of mainly plants and buds. Specifically, her hypothesis was examining the effects of propolis on the survivability of bacillus cereus, a foodborne pathogen that can produce toxins that lead to gastrointestinal illnesses.

Michael Serra, District 15’s director who’s also a YSU associate professor of chemistry and biological sciences, said more than $2,000 in cash prizes was received. He also wished to thank Altronic LLC, CJL Engineering and IES Systems for their contributions.


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