CN hosts STEM fair at NSU
Leach Public Schools sixth grader Jayden Carnell explains his entry in the Cherokee Nation Science & Engineering Fair on Feb. 1 at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Jayden wanted to see what jigs catch the most fish. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Projects ranging from lizard analysis to recyclable materials, and even a tin can telephone, took center stage at Northeastern State University on Feb. 1 for the 12th annual Cherokee Nation Science and Engineering Fair.
The fair was open to all tribal citizens – in and outside of the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction – from grades 5-12. The rules follow International Sustainable World Project Energy Engineering Environment Project Olympiad guidelines.
“It’s got the whole kind of green theme to it,” said Daniel Faddis, school community specialist. “There’s whole long list of subcategories. Robotics is a category, reuse and recycle is a category, water quality is a category, and so is noise pollution.”
Participants could choose to work on projects as individuals or in pairs. Faddis said team projects are graded on stiffer criteria, with more ways to lose points than individuals.
“Obviously, if you have two kids working on it, you would expect it to be better than one,” he said. “So the way ISWEEEP sets it up, there’s a whole other set of categories that the teamwork has to meet.”
Caitlyn Luttrell, eighth grader from Westville, centered her project on paper domes.
“It’s basically about the structural integrity of different types of paper to use for these domes,” said Luttrell. “I made two different type of domes: a construction paper one and a notebook paper one. I was trying to see which one was stronger and by how much it was stronger. The construction paper dome held 170 percent of its own weight and the notebook paper held 146 percent of its own weight.”
Luttrell’s hypothesis was correct in that the construction paper would hold more weight, even though it costs less to purchase. The young science enthusiast’s the project took several hours to accomplish over the course of a few days, but Luttrell said she didn’t mind because the science fair is something she has come to enjoy.
“Last year, it was introduced to me and I got pretty interested in it,” she said. “Now, I’m going to be doing it probably until I graduate. I really enjoy this a lot.”
More and more jobs are becoming available for those who work in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – and Faddis said the younger students can get involved, the better.
“STEM is the evolution of the future,” said Faddis. “Everything you see and every different discipline is focusing around STEM. So it’s really good for them to learn the proper, academic scientific method. And it’s good prep for college research, because they’re going to have to do it when they get to graduate school and undergraduate school.”
Not all of the projects at the fair came without a trial-and-error phase. Breeze Ward, sixth grader from Rose, was among that group.
“I wanted to see if I could blow up a balloon with baking soda and vinegar, and it can,” said Ward. “It was kind of messy. The first time I made it, it exploded on me. I think I added too much baking soda.”
The overall high school winner was Kevin Guthrie, of Westville High School. Guthrie also won the High School Engineering division, as well as the “Live an Honest Day” Paul Bickford Memorial Award, which comes with a $1,000 scholarship to Rogers State University.
Keysha Kendall, Westville, won the High School Environmental division. The middle school Outstanding Scientist Award went to Crystal Maggard, of Westville, and Hayden Faddis, also of Westville, won the Energy division. Leach School students Neveah Zuniga and Zylee Ward won the Middle School Engineering division and Environmental division, respectively.
“The Cherokee Nation Science and Engineering Fair is a great opportunity for students to learn about the fields of science, technology, engineering and math while they also interact and network with their peers and professionals,” said Ron Etheridge, Education Services deputy executive director. “This is a healthy challenge that engages Cherokee students, and I’m positive those who participate could one day use the skills they learn to give back to the Cherokee Nation.”