Students from throughout New Castle County compete to move on to regional fair

From the effects of cosmetics on the skin to consumer science to subliminal messages in videos and music, the kids of New Castle County had plenty of ideas at the 19th annual Delaware Technical College’s science fair.

Jeffrey Wood and Calvin Bangler, both of Hockessin, chose to focus on air foils and drag, thanks to Wood’s love of model airplanes.

“Our school (Charter School of Wilmington) requires us to participate, so I thought why not make it enjoyable,” Jeffrey said.

The two have been working on their projects since last summer, even going so far as to build a wind tunnel in Calvin’s basement to show the effects of drag and wind turbulence on Wood’s models.

“We did pretty much all of it over the summer,” Calvin said.

Calvin and Jeffrey joined with over 150 students from throughout the county for the fair, to vie for cash prizes, bragging rights, and the ability to move onto the national competition this spring.

Jessica Lavelle and Jennifer West, two fair-skinned 16-year-olds from the Charter School of Wilmington, chose to study the effects of higher number SPF sunscreen versus lower levels, because it’s something practical that people need to be aware of.

“We both burn easily, so we’re constantly using sunscreen,” Jessica said.

The two also were past the nervous point when it comes to the judging, having already resented their project and its findings three times since starting.

Program manager at Delaware Tech Tish Warriner said that the judges are pulled from area businesses and college faculty, with a focus on science-based companies like DuPont.

“We have a lot of DuPont,” she said.

The 58 judges are grouped by specialty, Warriner said, with each judge following the same criteria but with a focus on their area of expertise.

“They’re all looking at creativity, thoughtfulness, the actual following of the scientific method,” Warriner said.

This year, the judges reviewed 123 projects, with each judge seeing roughly 10 to 15 projects in the span of three hours.

Winners at the fair will move on to the regional Delaware Valley Science Fair in Philadelphia in April. Those winners in turn are invited to attend the International Fair, usually held in May, Warriner said.

“We had a student last year from Hockessin, Martin Kurian, move on to the international fair,” she said.

Martin took first place again this year, she added, for his project on “Magnetorheological Fluids in Pulsed Magnetic Fields.”

“He’s actually been accepted into early admittance at Yale,” Warriner said. “He’s pretty amazing.”

The categories for projects range from simple and obvious to complex and well over the average citizen’s head, including Biochemistry/Microbiology/Consumer Science, Computer Science, Earth and Space/Environmental Science and physics, just to name a few.

Warriner said that while some kids are required to participate, as in the case with Charter School of Wilmington, many of them are there simply because they love science.

“They don’t even have to be a part of one of the school districts,” she said. “We welcome any student with a passion for science.”