Science fair showcased research skills
On Jan. 15 eight-graders at Cunha Intermediate School presented their science projects. /Sarah Wright 

When eighth-grade student Jaya Miller was brainstorming for a science fair project, she immediately thought about an article she had just read on psychology. It said that when people are exposed to generosity, they’re more likely to be generous themselves.

“I just had heard of the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma,’ and I thought it was really cool. So. I just combined the two ideas,” Miller said.

Miller is one of more than 250 eighth-grade students who participated in Cunha Intermediate School’s science fair last week, impressing judges, teachers and families with presentations based on weeks of research and testing. Miller would leave the night one of 15 winners who will go on to compete in the county fair in March. 

Angel Tinetti, who presented on the future of food, took first place overall at the fair. According to eighth-grade science teacher Lucinda Hitchner, nearly all eighth-graders participate each year.

Among the long rows of posterboards, colorful designs and innovative contraptions, a few stood out. Zoe Chait’s poster was decorated with surfboard fins — her study focusing on how different fin arrangements affect speed. She is a surfer herself, which she says prompted the project. 

“In my family, no one surfs. So I always want to learn as much as I can about the surfing world. I also thought it might help me in competitions to come,” Chait said.

Chait said the hardest part of her project was keeping the experiment controlled. She said she learned about how real-life conditions, like the natural bumps in waves, change how surfboards move and how fast a surfer is able to navigate a wave while maintaining control.

Paola Rico’s experiment aimed to solve a bigger question: how the physics of light affects plant growth. Rico said she did research on light and wave lengths ahead of time to help her better understand and apply her results, and that she is proud of her work. 

“I actually did an experiment that other people can use,” Rico said.

Across the bustling gym, Kai Bliss held up four testing samples he made himself. The chunks of wood were covered in waterproofing paint, each a different type.

“A lot of the people on the coast here probably have dry rot in their walls because the climate around the coast is just really wet and foggy,” said Bliss. Bliss’ dad, a local contractor, inspired him to test waterproofing techniques.

Bliss picked out a sample and held a device to its surface. “Look,” he said. “This one still has moisture in it!”

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