Inquiring minds show their stuff at Lebanon science fair

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Fri., Nov. 16, 2012
Abigael Bell speaks to a visitor about her project, which involved the use of household substances to break down poison ivy oils. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Abigael Bell speaks to a visitor about her project, which involved the use of household substances to break down poison ivy oils. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Ever forget to pack a swim diaper for a day at the water park? The modern disposable diaper can hold a whole lot of fluid. But which brand is the most absorbent? This is the question that Lebanon Elementary School fourth-grader Rylan Colbourne Grant set out to answer for this year’s fall science fair at his school. Judging by a photo included with his display, his scientific method included hanging a number of sodden diapers from a dowel suspended above the countertop in his kitchen. “I wanted to see which one would leak first,” he explained. Turns out, he found that Luvs were the most absorbent.

Colbourne Grant was among 34 fourth-graders sharing their scientific discoveries with parents, friends and siblings at the school the afternoon of Nov. 14. Typically, animals prompted a fair number of queries. Such was the case for Adam Martell, who set out to answer the question: Which is the most venomous snake in the world? His display included a video, displayed on his mom’s iPhone, of himself catching a harmless blacksnake. Martell informed his visitors that there are two varieties of venomous snake in Connecticut – the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead. “I actually got to help tag a rattlesnake once,” he said. “I’ve been interested in snakes since I was about 3.” Martell said that his interest was piqued by watching “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin on television. So which snake is the most venomous? There are two that are tied for that distinction, according to Martell – the Australian eastern brown snake and the Belcher’s sea snake.

Maggie King was inspired by a less deadly, more cuddly creature. Her gerbils, Squiggles and Wriggles, like to run around the family’s house in their rodent exercise balls. King wondered whether her pets would be deterred if their balls were opaque rather than translucent. So she covered a ball with a coat of red paint to eliminate visibility. The results were surprising. “I thought they’d run faster in a clear ball, but they didn’t,” said King. Both Squiggles and Wriggles seemed to run faster and farther in the ball with the reduced visibility. “I was surprised,” said King.

Nick Longworthy was also inspired by his pets. Eastern painted turtles Speedy and Snappy have been members of the Longworthy household for five years or so. The fourth-grader got to wondering which type of food his pets preferred. When allowed free choice between krill, shrimp and Repto Sticks, the reptiles exhibited their individual preferences. Turns out Speedy is a sucker for Repto Sticks. Snappy, on the other hand, “really likes krill,” said Longworthy.

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