Three Golden Hills School seventh graders placed in last month’s Sacramento Regional Science and Engineering Fair and one of them will take her science project to the California State Science Fair.
Paloma DiMugo, 12, took first place in the regional competition in the category of Physical Science with her project that explored why birds fly in a V formation during migration. “I had a hard time thinking of a project to do and one morning when I woke up there were two birds flying in a V outside my house. I wanted to know why they did that,” said Paloma.
She built a board with stationary Lego birds and two control birds that could be moved and put them in the path of a fan. “I moved the control birds in different formations and measured the weight for 60 seconds, recorded the results and averaged them.” Paloma determined that the V formation with its draft and wing tip vortexes reduced the amount of energy it took the birds to fly.
“I’ve never been a science type; I’m better with English, so I was surprised I did so well,” said Paloma. She attributes her writing skills to helping her clearly present her project and added, “I think the judges were also looking for people who could express their personality with their presentation and I can do that. I even made the judges laugh.”
Anna Smith took second place in the Specialities category with her project that explored the impact of food dyes on the growth of silkworms. “My parents are health nuts and they don’t want me to eat things like Skittles,” said Anna, 12. “So I wanted to see if food dyes made any difference.”
She raised 500 silkworms on a diet of undyed food, food dyed with natural dyes and food dyed with artificial dyes, explaining, “I figured that the natural dyed food would be the healthiest.” Her experiment proved that undyed foods produced the best silkworms and foods with red artificial dyes produced the worst silkworms. Surprising Anna, both natural caramel dye and green artificial dyes produced the second least healthy worms. “It wouldn’t affect humans in quite the same way,” she said, “but it’s good to be aware of the effect dyes can have.”
Juliette (last name withheld) also 12, wanted to know if her lacrosse coaches were right when they directed her to follow through in her lacrosse shots. Does it make a difference? She built a catapult and attached her lacrosse stick, making 20 follow-through shots and then 20 without a full follow-through. Then she made 20 lacrosse shots of her own with follow-through and 20 without. In every trial, follow-through made a difference, proving her coaches right. “The shots with follow-through were 11 miles per hour faster with the catapult and 2 miles per hour faster when I did it,” said Juliette. “Accuracy was too hard to prove.”
Golden Hills is a kindergarten through eighth-grade private school in El Dorado Hills, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This is the third year Golden Hills students have qualified for the regional competition and the first year one has placed first. “We celebrate and honor our students’ success,” said Admissions Director Jim Gaines.
Science teacher Tim Blum uses the Science Buddies program to walk sixth- and seventh-grade students through all the steps necessary to complete and document a science project. “I approve the projects they choose,” said Blum, “and offer suggestions for improvement or help when they get stuck.”
Paloma has already completed the 36 page state competition application and will be attending the April 15 and 16 event in Los Angeles with both her parents.
“I’m excited. The caliber of competitors is high,” said Paloma. “The judges give you a shorter time to make your presentation but they spend more time in front of your project asking questions. The only trouble I have is figuring out how to get my presentation board on the plane.”