Last week I had the opportunity to judge a 5th grade science fair at one of our local grammar schools. We chose winners in three categories, Physical/Geoscience, Applied Science/Engineering, and Biological Sciences. One of my criteria for judging was I wanted to see something original so that ruled out the vinegar volcanoes, Mentos and Coke, and food coloring and carnation experiments; but it certainly left lots of other interesting projects to choose from (unfortunately I didn't take any pictures so I can only describe the winners.
The winner in the Physical/Geoscience category was a young lady who used a balloon and a wool sweater to build up static charge on the balloon. She then tested the strength of the charge by using a key to create "lightning". She wanted to test the strength of the lightning (as measured by how far away the key was when it discharged, to the amount of charge (rubbing) built up.
The winner in the Applied Science/Engineering category was a young man who had heard on a TV show how strong an eggshell was. He created a tripod of raw eggs by gluing 2-liter bottle caps to the ends (so the eggs would stand) and then weighted his eggs. The three eggs supported over 36 pounds of books before the first one cracked.
The winner in the Biological Science category was a young lady who compared caterpillar growth. She bought one of the commercial butterfly kits and put half of the caterpillars in a consistent warm temperature room, and left the other one to fluctuate from warm to cold. The caterpillars in the warm container continued to grow all the way until they built cocoons while the others reached a maximum size (about 1/) and then did not grow any more. Aside from what I thought was a really interesting experiment, when my fellow judge asked her how she thought of the experiment, the response was that she had raised caterpillars before, and it was something she was "curious about."
My honorable mention geology related project was a young lady who built a seismograph. She poke a hole through a dixie cup with a pencil and then filled the dixie cup with marbles. She then hung the dixie cup from a cardboard box so the pencil would trace a line on a roll of calculator paper. Then while someone shook the table, she would pull the strip of paper, and the pencil would record the amplitude of shaking.
Congratulations to all the winners, I was inspired by the kids, and the teachers who took the time to put on this fair.