Science Fair Fun!

The LA County Science Fair was on March 29, a nerve-racking day for all the science geniuses preparing for the science fair. These boys and girls gave up every Tuesday and Thursday lunch period to work on their projects. Everyone who competed had to come the day before to register their project, have everything scanned to make sure it followed regulations, and set it up. Around a thousand students competed. There are 3 sessions of judging that are an hour each. In the end, seven out of fifteen of our students are going to state.

Our first place winner in her division of 35 people was Dana Soibel. When she won she did not expect it at all. She felt very happy that our school was represented. Dana’s project was to  see if she could detect or measure chemicals in different elements using optical properties.She researched instruments like spectrophotometers that measure optical properties, but they were over ten thousand dollars, so she couldn't get one. She decided to build one herself using a three colored LED and a photoresistor/sensor. She placed those three components on a ardeno board. Then Dana connected all of these components electrically using an electrical diagram. In order to control the board she wrote a code. This code measures the intensity of the light that measures the cuvette an average of a hundred times when both the lights are on or off. Then you would subtract the excess background light from the total intensity. She diluted water with a certain amount of food coloring, added specific amount seven more times and the light passed through it. The same thing was done with two other food colorings. Those are the transmissions, from there you can calculate the absorption coefficients. That means you can indeed detect a color and measure its concentration using the absorption coefficients.

Another student participant was Isabelle Whetsel who did her project on the amount of gluten in certain types of flour. The gluten is activated when it gets wet, so she mixed a dough with one cup of flour and a half a cup of water. She kneaded the mixture for five minutes, recorded their weight, and then put the dough in a strainer over the sink under running water. After that she massaged it until all the flour was gone. In her own words, “You will know due to the fact that the water running through the dough will turn clear after being white.” Then she recorded their weight again. Lastly, she divided the weight of the gluten over the original weight of the dough, this will give the percent of gluten per dough. Isabelle found something very interesting, almond flour had less gluten than gluten free power. You wouldn’t think gluten free flour had gluten in it, since its marketed as gluten free. This experiment shows that if you’re allergic to gluten, nut flour is a better option for you than “gluten free” flour.

Dana Soibel presents her board on the study of optical properties of artificial colors.

Dana Soibel presents her board on the study of optical properties of artificial colors.

Taylor Calva