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Fauquier County Regional Science & Engineering Fair draws top minds

Thursday, Apr. 3 | By Julie Taylor
Photo by Adam Goings.
Warrenton Middle School Judge Gregory Adams interviews Emily Dyson (in red) and Cassandra Dehn (both Cedar lee Middle School 7th Grade) about their project. Both students would like to seek a future in forensic science.
Recently, 51 of Fauquier's brightest students competed in the county's first Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Science fairs aren't new here. But this one allowed public and private students throughout the county to go head-to-head with their projects and, for the first time, the winners have a shot at advancing to the state science fair.

The senior winner, Hannah Small, received a physically and financially large check for $1,500.

"The big check was Mrs. Collins idea," said Vineeta Ribeiro, who is credited with organizing the regional fair. Mary Collins and her husband David provided a large amount of the funding, including the cash prizes given to the winners.

Hannah said she planned to put the money toward her college education, which will begin next fall.

"Hannah's always been very disciplined, very self-sustaining," said her father Scot.

"I want to major in neuroscience at Amherst in Massachusetts," Hannah said.

With a wide variety of topics to choose from, Hannah decided to study monosodium glutamate (MSG), an ingredient commonly considered to be unhealthy.

"I was interested in MSG because my mom is kind of a health nut," she said.

Hannah's mother Sally said that Hannah had been working on the project for the last two years, something Mountain Vista begins with all of its 10th graders. To perform the experiment, the family turned a room in their basement into a darkroom for the entire period.

The contestants studied and discoursed on everything from the most effective deer repellent, to sonar glasses, to how crystal growth rates are effected by temperature. Abbey Wills, an eight grader at Highland School, revealed her hypothesis, process, and result without batting an eyelash.

"I wanted to see which temperature has the most effect on crystal growth rates," she explained of her project, which landed her an honorable mention.

Faith Jones, a sixth grader at Marshall Middle School, turned a piece of fruit into fuel for a light.

"I made a fruit battery because my teacher had told us about students that made a portable clock. I made a light instead of a clock," she said. Faith said her science teacher, Cathy Persiani, has inspired her beyond the scope of a science fair.

"I kind of want to be a science teacher," Faith said. "My teacher now lets us have fun in her class, and do lots of experiments."

It's apparent that only good can come from the regional science and engineering fair, which is slated to become a yearly fixture. The fair gives students an additional opportunity to expand their minds, and the added competition heightens the level of quality.

"They're tapping into a lot of critical thinking skills when they do science experiments," said Sally Small.

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