Ammo Accuracy science project at VT Annual Science Fairby
Ammo Accuracy science project at VT Annual Science Fair
Date: Apr 3, 2007 6:50 AM
Attachments: bilde.jpg spacer.gif enlarge_image_horiz.gif
Roof-jumping dangers, ammo accuracy among projects showcased at science fair
April 1, 2007
By Peter Hirschfeld Staff Writer
NORTHFIELD – Like any good hunter, Aaron Hildebrand wants a quick kill.
And so this year, for the 44th Annual Vermont Science Fair, the 13-year-old Rutland Area Christian School student submitted his exhaustive study on the accuracy of shotgun shells.
"God wants us to respect and be good stewards of every living thing," the seventh-grade turkey-hunting enthusiast wrote next to a graph charting the merits of various ammunition. "Therefore, we should make sure that when an animal is shot during hunting, it should be a fatal shot so that the animal would not … suffer a slow death."
Hildebrand's earnest plea for humaneness characterized the blend of passion and academia that defined this year's projects. More than 200 students from 17 middle and high schools set up their poster-board displays Saturday in Norwich University's science building. The projects, almost without exception, explored brain-cramping conundrums borne of out-of-class interests.
Carl Vitzhum's 8-year-old brother hurls himself regularly off their porch roof into snow. That got the Montpelier middle schooler thinking: Exactly how far could the sibling plummet without breaking his neck?
The answer, it turns out, is about four feet – a figure arrived at only after countless hours of physics calculations.
"He likes to jump off the porch roof," 12-year-old Vitzhum explained. "I was wondering if that's safe."
Injuries to cervical vertebrae account for a majority of serious childhood accidents, according to the Main Street Middle School seventh-grader, whose research revealed that it takes 189 joules of force to fracture the bones. By dropping marbles (not children) from various heights, he developed a metric that determines how much force an 8-year-old generates at freefall.
"This project was completely out of the classroom," says Vitzhum, a precocious young scientist with a yen for physics and calculus.
Following a passion is the quickest route to learning, according to Stephen Fitzhugh, a Norwich engineering professor and science fair judge.
"Students always do best when they're working on something that they're interested in and passionate about," Fitzhugh said. "There's some very interesting projects here that cover the gamut, and the students' interest in their particular areas of study is obvious."
Tamika Piper, a classmate of Hildebrand's, transformed her family's dietary experiment at home into a scientific exploration of organic food. The 12-year-old knew from books she's read that pesticides used on fruit and vegetable crops have been blamed for various health problems. But when it comes to taste, Piper asked, how does the all-natural stuff compare?
Two plates of sliced Gala apples offered judges a chance to relive her taste-testing experiment, in which classmates and family members almost unanimously selected organic apples over their pesticide-treated counterparts.
"I was interested in seeing if I could show people there's something they can do in their life that's healthier," Piper said. The fair is sponsored by
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