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A (science) fair to remember

Students from more than 40 schools took part in the annual Upper East Tennessee Science Fair last week, displaying projects that tested everything from the abilities of a solar-powered marshmallow roaster to the inner workings of producing biogas from biomass.
With soda bottles, balloons and a little cow dung, 12-year-old Aaron Rutter tested whether adding biomass to manure would create more biogas. The Gray School seventh-grader filled one plastic bottle with just 10 grams of cow manure, then added mashed bananas to the same amount of manure in a second bottle and added vegetable peelings to the manure in a third bottle.
“I was trying to produce a lot of biogas and I knew cow manure had a lot of biogas,” Rutter said. “So I just added stuff to it to see if it would add more energy.”
While Rutter and his partner hypothesized that adding mashed bananas to the manure would create more energy, their project taught them that the manure alone produced the most energy.
Meanwhile, Ridgeview School fourth grader Aidan Orchard built a solar powered marshmallow roaster to see if it could cook a marshmallow.
Complete with tin foil and a Fresnel lens, Orchard’s solar powered roaster needed only five minutes to get the job done.
“I didn’t think the Fresnel lens would have the sun going through it that well,” said Orchard, who roasted about a dozen marshmallows as a part of his experiment. “They tasted good.
Nine-year-old Gage Whitaker’s science fair project went to the birds this year — literally.
“Me and my dad built different bird houses together then we put them up, about two feet apart from each other,” said Whitaker, a student at Jonesborough Elementary School who was testing whether birds prefer a certain kind of bird feeder. “I sat out there with a book on one side and my video games on the other and I watched for two to three hours each day. I learned more birds seem to eat off the long wooden bird feeder that has a perch on it. It’s more comfortable for them, like they are in a tree.”
Professional scientists from East Tennessee State University and various local companies judged the competition, with more than $6,000 in prize money awarded to the student winners, their teachers and their schools.