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Diocesan students compete in science fair at Paul VI

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Are all-natural cleaning products as effective as Lysol? How does temperature affect the density of a gluten-free cake? Which nail polish brand is the most durable? Seventh- and eighth-grade students from around the Arlington Diocese won top prizes at their schools for answering these questions and more. 

At Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax April 8, the winners gathered to compete once again in the Diocesan Science Fair. The highest scoring team was from St. Joseph School in Herndon and Jackson Towns, a student there, won the top award.


Towns’ project began with a simple question: why is my mom putting coffee grounds in the garden? He placed worms in soil pots and fertilized them with vegetables, grains, coffee grounds or a mixture of all of that to see which created the ideal environment for plants to grow. 

In the end, the soil was healthiest and the worms grew biggest with coffee grounds, scientifically proving that moms are always right. The worms now are squirming happily in the Towns’ coffee ground-filled flower and vegetable garden, he said. 

Science fair participants competed in categories such as botany, zoology, chemistry, mathematics and others. Some projects focused on topics outside of the middle school science curriculum, said Lauren Jennison, St. Joseph’s middle school science teacher. But participating in the fair allowed students to apply the scientific method to solve everyday queries. It also helped students stay disciplined, as they had to work on the project for several weeks or months, she said.

“All of the students (who) won were following the scientific method: researching the background to make their hypothesis, designing their process with independent and dependent variables, a control (and) multiple trials,” she said.

Jennison felt the students did best when they were passionate about the topic they chose. Her student Luke Howard chose a project that allowed him to incorporate his love of nerf guns. He won honorable mention in physics for “It’s the Accuracy that Counts.” 

Brendan Black of St. Timothy School in Chantilly won first place in physics for his project “Winglets Wonders —  Decreasing Drag.” His project was inspired by completing a Boy Scout merit badge on airplanes and his Navy pilot father. “I think aviation is fascinating,” he said. Through his project, Black learned that “to get the most effective winglet (a small tip on the end of a wing) you need to have the largest angle without making an extension to the wing.”

The fair began with three hours of judging the projects, which were displayed on tri-fold poster boards. Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge stopped by to greet the young scientists. After a brief public viewing, Jennifer Bigelow, diocesan superintendent of schools, along with science teachers and members of the Office of Catholic Schools, announced the winners. Bigelow told the students it was a blessing to see their work and encouraged them to share their talents with others.

 See the full list of winners.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017