Caldwell County Science Expo starts and ends with questions

Dec. 04, 2013 @ 11:28 AM

Set up with care in all the old rooms, halls and buildings of the Patterson Science Center (once the Patterson School) on Tuesday were school science projects that started with questions.

Are breath mints really cooling, the way advertisements claim? Yes, according to the research of Baton Elementary fifth-grader Lindsey Greene. The Icebreakers she tested dropped the temperature of water and the human mouth.

Will the oldest tree in a forest always have the biggest circumference? Nope — not according to the calculations of Dylan Smith, a third-grader at Baton Elementary.

And will cut flowers grow more quickly in hot water or cold water? Happy Valley School fifth-grader Chelsie Sheppard quickly learned hot water was more galvanizing, despite her hypothesis that the cold would spur more growth.

Students across the county (including Lindsey, Dylan and Chelsie) competed in the Caldwell County Science Expo on Tuesday. In addition to the traditional science fair-style projects, the event featured spontaneous team competitions and science demonstrations.

Participants had rigged up the traditional posterboard displays, although some added high-tech touches: Dillon Wilson, a fifth-grader at Hudson Elementary who studied the effects of acid rain on plant growth, brought along an iPad on which photos of his explorations scrolled.

Judges circulated through the rooms, asking questions and taking notes. Caldwell County extension agent Seth Nagy, who was on hand to judge chemistry projects, said he was looking for evidence of the scientific method in the projects’ processes.

In the spirit of science, many of the kids who launched projects with questions in mind had, on Tuesday, a question or two left over.

Chelsie, of the cut flowers, wanted to know if the experiment would work the same way on any flower, not just the ones she used.

Anthony Romero, a fifth-grader at Hudson Elementary who grew one bean plant in soil and one in a nest of cotton balls, wanted to know if you could grow plants in other non-soil substances. He had heard from his teacher that you could grow a seed in a diaper, so he wanted to test other absorbent materials.

Mandi Wheeler, a third-grader at Happy Valley School who attempted to grow a pumpkin inside another pumpkin, wanted to know if there was some changeable variable -- the cold, maybe -- that kept the project from working.

And really, you could say that’s what science is all about: questions that sprout and give life to further questions -- and, occasionally, some answers along the way.