Inaugural science fair showcases local talent

By Ryan Carpe rcarpe@civitasmedia.com

February 20, 2014

GREENVILLE – This Wednesday marked the Inaugural Darke County Science Day at Greenville High School, where more than 50 students participated in the STEM-oriented event.
In a widely attended competition, six of the eight county schools, including Ansonia, Arcanum-Butler, Bradford, Franklin Monroe, Greenville, Tri-Village and Versailles districts participated to show off their wide variety of scientific projects.
“It's a celebration of the kids' hard work,” Darke County Curriculum Specialist Angela McMurry said. “They've done this all on their own.”
Working with members of the Tipp City STEAM Boosters, Greenville High School Science Department and Edison Community College faculty, McMurry and the Darke County Education Center worked to not only bring a successful science fair to Darke County so that our students can be recognized for their achievements, but to also allow an opportunity for teachers to bring more inquiry based learning into their own classrooms to align with the new state and national standards.
“The completion of individual, self-directed student research is the definitive way to create, encourage, and educate future researchers in the STEM fields,” said Tippecanoe STEAM Boosters and Event Organizer Dr. Martin English. “This is exactly what the science fair program is designed to do.”
As the event began, each student/group placed their displays within the Greenville High School cafeteria as they addressed friends, teachers, family members and judges to explain their academic work and projects.
“Some of the projects that the students have been working on are pretty cool and innovative,” said McMurry.
The student participants ranged from 6 to 12 grades, and came from a variety of backgrounds themselves.
“We're seeing a little bit of everything. I don't know if there's one type of student participating,” she said.
Each project was evaluated by judges made up of community members, active and retired science teachers, engineers and other professionals to ensure that the projects were tallied fairly and correctly.
The categories ranged from Behavioral and Social Sciences, Chemistry, Energy and Transportation, Engineering, Plant Science, Physics and Environmental fields, and demonstrated a wide range of knowledge from each participating student, and each project was gauged as either “Excellent” or “Superior.”
In addition, every student that qualified with a “Superior” distinction will be have their entrance fee paid for a chance to compete in the District Science Fair held on March 22 at Central State University.
Students received anywhere between $25 to $100 rewards for their work, with many projects taking home several accolades.
Wednesday evening's first place awarded was presented to Gage Berghoff and Casey Puckett, both sophomores from Tri-Village, for their project titled, “Mind Games.”
“I'm really happy about it, because we put a lot of effort into it. And I think that showed in our project,” said Berghoff.
The team started working on the project since September after they came up with the idea about playing video games with their minds.
“Who wouldn't want to play video game with their minds?” said Puckett. “That would be really awesome.”
Their experiment investigated the feasibility of a low cost electroencephalography (EEG) toy headset to be used to control objects, specifically measuring whether the headset user could control their attention level.
Using a headset manufactured by Mattel that measures brain waves, the students measured the degree that users could control their brain waves while using a remote-controlled car as the dependent variable.
The experiment was designed to show evidence for future usage like manipulating buttons, prosthetic devices, wheelchairs and anything that can be controlled the the transfer of digital information.
Now the team will go on to compete with other scientifically-minded young adults at the District Science Fair, and they seem ready.
“I'm excited for it,” said Berghoff.
“We're feeling pretty good about it,” said Puckett.
Later in the evening, an award ceremony took place in the Greenville's gymnasium where organizers of the inaugural event applauded the work of the students.
“All of this has to be done on their own type after school, so I think it says a lot about that type of student who is willing to go the extra mile to do this,” said McMurry.
“This was a better turnout than I think any of us expected,” said Greenville High School Science Teacher Mike Koenig. “Everyone did a great job, and I've seen a lot of great projects today.”
Darke County Science Day was also given a boost from the Darke County Economic Development administration Workforce Specialist Lisa Wendel, who recognized that the event would help showcase the talent and ingenuity of local students.
Wendel addressed the students individual accomplishments during the event, and acknowledged their own unique value in the emerging workforce.
“The first thing I can guess about you is that you're a risk taker. Somebody probably encouraged you to participate, but it was ultimately your decision. And when you're being judged for anything you're taking a risk. Secondly I could probably guess that you excel in academics. Your teachers aren't going to ask you to compete with other schools unless you can do that. Thirdly, you finish what you start. You brought a finished project. You have a desire to find answers that most people don't even think about. And finally I can guess that you were raised in a home that valued education, hard work and perseverance,” said Wendel. “Those are all things that businesses are looking for.”
And for those that simply enjoyed participating this inaugural year, McMurry is already planning a bigger and better Darke County Science Day for the 2014-2015 school year.
“Put it on your calendars now and start thinking of those ideas that inspiring your friends and those around to make this event even bigger next year,” she said.