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ESK students look to excel at SASEF

A mathematical definition of beauty, the speed of a domino run, and a plan to make chickens lay more eggs are problems that Episcopal School of Knoxville students will ponder at the 60th annual Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair March 28-31.

Nine ESK students will exhibit at this premiere regional science and engineering competition at Thompson-Boling Arena. All were first-place winners of the annual ESK Middle School Science Fair Feb. 24, where 85 students exhibited projects and 35 won awards.

Eighth-grader Abigail Cooper won first place and best of show in the Middle School science fair with her project, “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder,” which tests the premise that most people think faces which best exhibit the proportions of “phi,” or 1.618, are beautiful.

Abigail presented to a control group many pairs of digitally altered faces from varied age, race, gender and nationality groups, one in each set with proportions close to phi and the other different. She found that only half the viewers selected as most beautiful the faces displaying the “golden” proportions, no more than normal probability.

Abigail concluded that “beauty relies entirely in the eye of the beholder,” favoring factors other than mathematical alignment.

Other first-place winners included Austin Hoffarth, who proved that three feet of dominoes placed close together will fall faster than dominoes spaced farther apart; Shannon O'Hatnick, who found that chickens exposed to extra artificial light each day will produce more eggs, and Madison Howell, who found that of equal-sized ice shapes, the one with the largest surface area (a square) melts quicker than one with a smaller surface area (a circle).

Participation in the SASEF is a yearly goal at the 320-student Episcopal School, where using the scientific method is a school-wide priority.

The point is to engage students in problem solving and original thought, said Middle School science teacher Cary Busby. “Our students apply scientific methods to a huge variety of subjects that interest them. They see that people in all kinds of careers can use the skills that they practice at science fair.”

About 110 students participated in the Lower School Science Fair March 10, with projects including studies of whether black- legged ticks actively seek hosts to feed upon (they do), which sunscreen protects best (tested on cowhide), which paper towels are strongest (both wet and dry) and what kind of insulation keeps water hot the longest.

About 20 students will enter projects at the Tate Regional Science Fair for grades 3-5 in April, said 4th grade science teacher Jeannie Hoover.

She said the teachers at ESK create an atmosphere of excitement around science events. "First and foremost, we want the students to enjoy science. Then we want them to understand the scientific method and think like scientists," she said.

Science fairs are not the only way that ESK lets budding scientists stretch their wings. This year, for example, all eighth graders are executing portfolio projects in which each student researches a topic, creates a handmade artifact, and performs a community service project coinciding with the topic.

Examples of these include Elliot Allen, who wrote a paper on volunteerism in Knoxville, made 36 ceramic bowls and then hosted a chili dinner to benefit Knoxville’s Volunteer Ministry Center, raising nearly $500.

Brandon Babbit wrote a paper and created a documentary film on organic farming, and then built a raised bed garden at the school in with the plan of raising produce to make salad for everyone to enjoy on graduation day May 27.

Other students exhibiting at the SASEF will include Mary Margaret Banick, Garret Conti, Sam Sullivan-Moore, Ellie Lai, and Jared Heath.

ESK sixth grader Ian Greeley took fourth place at the SASEF last year for his project, "Got Mussels?" which looked at the effect of acid ocean water on shells.??


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