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The Davidovits Lab sparks science fair at Orchard Gardens

Members of Professor Paul Davdovits's research group recently helped organize the first-ever middle school science fair at the Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Orchard Gardens, a K-8 school, was one of four Boston public schools awarded a GEMS (Gelfand Endeavor for Massachusett Schools) grant from the Gelfand Family Trust. The goal of the GEMS program is to excite, engage, and motivate students through inquiry-based learning. One of the primary objectives of this program is to establish and improve science fairs in the public schools. Dr. Eben Cross (Ph.D.'09), who led the outreach project, worked with a team of colleagues from Boston College and MIT to support the middle school students through the months leading up to the event. Team members from the Davidovits Lab included Dr. Andrew Lambe, Adam Ahearn (B.S.'09), and David Croasdale (BC'11). On 27 January 2010, 237 students - representing 95% of all the students from grades 6 through 8 - presented 107 projects in the first ever Orchard Gardens Science Fair. Each group presented their work to four different scientist/judges, and 15 projects were selected to represent Orchard Gardens at the regional science fair held at Northeastern University in March. On the evening of the science fair, over 350 parents and students crowded into the gymnasium to view the projects. The fair was a huge success. Dr. Cross is the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Environmental Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT.

Francisco Pinyero (left) and Christopher Marte (right) with their project - Does Speed make an Ollie Higher?

Francisco and Christopher were interested in skateboarding and decided to do their project on the relationship between skateboard speed and ollie (a skateboard trick jump) height. They set up a track marking set distances for the start and stop points and used a video camera to record the skateboard trajectory and visually estimated the ollie height based on their direct observations. They tested two different speeds: fast and slow – determined by timing the skateboarder between the start and stop points. Their hypothesis was that the fast skateboard would result in a higher recorded ollie height. They learned that making accurate measurements of ollie height with the naked eye was very difficult, but in general ollie heights observed for the faster skateboard condition exceeded those of the slower condition.

For more photos of the science fair please see: >>

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