By Kevin Baker & Nicolette Brookman
On Thursday, January 29th, Hammond freshmen and sophomores from the Biology GT and Earth and Space Science GT classes displayed their experiments and findings at the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Fair in the Media Center. The students, taught by Mr. Griffin and Ms. French respectively, have been working on their projects from the start of the school year.
Participating students left their regular classes during second and third period to present their STEM projects to STEM-related professionals in the Hammond community. These experts judged the projects based on their display boards and an interview with the participants at the fair. Each participant or group was interviewed by 3 of these judges. After the fair, family and friends could come back at 7 PM to see the projects and attend the awards ceremony, where winners in five categories were announced.
Freshmen Aileen Zhang, Emma Schreier, and Molly Schreier won the Best Overall category for “Spice it Up: The Effect of Spices on the Growth of E. Coli.” They tested the effects of cinnamon, red pepper, garlic, oregano, and ginger on the growth of E. coli.
They measured using the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion test. They placed a wafer soaked
in each spice solution in each of five petri dishes with E. coli. The spice was considered effective if there was a “zone of inhibition” around the wafer in which E. coli did not grow or was killed.
They found that garlic was very effective in combatting E. coli, and red pepper was slightly effective.
Research like theirs is important because E. coli is a bacterium that, while generally harmless, has some strands that can cause serious food poisoning. Finding natural preventions for E. coli would benefit a lot of people by preventing illness. According to Molly, “You would need a lot of it, but when making food with garlic, you have less of a chance of [getting] E. coli.”
Mr. Griffin, the head of Hammond’s STEM Fair, says that it was “the way that they followed the Scientific Method to the detail that they followed it [that] impressed the judges so well.” He also remarked on their admirable ability to “discuss their data and what impact that this kind of research could have on everyday life,” which separated them from the formidable competition.
Aileen, Emma, and Molly are ready to compete at Howard County’s STEM Fair, where winning students from around the county’s high schools present their projects to many more judges and trade organizations. Zhang went last year as an eighth grader, so she knows what to expect – “an extremely competitive environment…[especially] in Biology.”
Other notable Hammond winners included: Madhu Nallani, Makayla Buecker, Rachel Hall, and Ashley Wyn with their project “Got C? The Effect of Cooking on Vitamin C Content” in the Chemistry category; Sejal Sinha with “Can Gum Help You Pass Your Tests?” in Biology; Camren Crute and Kyle Spicher with “Ice Wedging in Wood” in Earth and Space; Seth Ragin with “Hot and Cold’ in Physics; and Achuna Ofonedu with “Alternative Energy Showdown” in Technology and Engineering.
The main goal of the STEM Fair, according to Mr. Griffin, is to give students experience in working with the Scientific Method, which is the outline of steps to take when performing an experiment. It includes writing and testing a hypothesis.
Ms. Leonard is proud of Hammond’s integration of STEM subjects and projects into the curriculum because STEM is an important aspect of virtually all careers. “STEM subjects are key to students’ abilities to think critically, think logically, and reason their way through problems, and those are skills that will stand any student in good stead, regardless of whether they go into STEM fields as a career or whether they’re able to use those skills in any field that they enter.”