Local students find scientific success

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

Two Yazoo County Middle School students went above and beyond in their academics this year by recently participating in the Mississippi State Science Fair.

Seventh graders Kaleb Bullock and Elbert Thomas represented their school at the state competition held at Northeast Community College.

Bullock's project, "Let it Burn,” was inspired by his grandparent's wood-burning heater. He decided to do some research on different types of wood and how fast each type of wood would burn when exposed to fire. Bullock chose four types of wood for his experiment, Pine, Cedar, Cherry, and Red Oak.  His other research helped him to learn the different properties of the wood he chose, such as hard wood versus soft wood.  After gathering his materials needed to begin his experiment, Bullock tested each block of wood, keeping track of how long it took the fire to burn, and how much of the wooden surface was charred after being exposed to the fire.

"The burn times varied but the softwoods, the pine and cedar, had an average burn time of four minutes and 23 seconds," Bullock said.

In creating his board, Bullock chose to display pictures of the entire burn process from start to finish, as a way to further explain the change that was taking place in the project.

Bullock's project was such a success that he brought home 1st place in Material Science at the regional science fair, and was also named a Broadcom Master.  At the state level, Bullock said  "Let It Burn" was named the Most Outstanding Exhibit in Material Science. Because of these accomplishments, Bullock has also qualified to attend the national science competition this summer.

Thomas took a different approach with his science fair project, and chose to design a movable cardboard hand for his presentation in called "Will it Operate Correctly?"

"I wanted to know how a cardboard hand would be if it was just like a human hand," he said. "I wanted to test it out, so I built this and tried to see if it could pick up an empty cup."

In order to build his new hand, Thomas did some research on the shape of a human hand, and how the nerves and bones are placed to help a hand move.  After creating the shape of a hand on cardboard, Thomas added straw pieces to serve as bones to shape the hand, and used yarn as the nerves which gave the hand movement.  During his experiment, Thomas was able to use the hand to grasp and pick up an empty cup.  As he continued the experiment, Thomas added a small amount of water to the cup to add weight, but the cardboard hand was not able to hold that much weight.

Overall, Thomas felt that he found the answers he was searching for in his project, and said that experiments like his are useful in science.

"Scientists can use this when they are building a human-like robot," Thomas said. "They can use it to really see the bones and the nerves in the hands and know the exact shape of it."

Thomas said that his project achieved 2nd Place at the regional competition, and also won a 5th Place ribbon at the state level in the category for Robotics and Intelligent Design.

Both Thomas and Bullock are members of Lauren Cummings 7th Grade Science class at Yazoo County Middle School.

"I had more students to participate in the regional and state science fairs this year than last year," Cummings said. "It makes you really proud of them.  This was all their idea, and they did all of their projects on their own."

Yazoo County Middle School also had two other students, Erin Erter and Gabe Warren, who were also named Broadcom Masters at the regional science fair and have also qualified to advance to the national competition this summer.

"I am so proud of these students and how well they represent our school," said Virginia Ables, YCMS Principal. "I look forward to seeing how the students do when they go to the national competition in June.  I love how well these students represent our school, not just for academics but also for their great character."