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Pursuing curiosity, expanding knowledge at Sundre science fair

Students embark on mission to learn through science fair experiments

SUNDRE - River Valley School students enthusiastically explored a variety of interesting ideas, developing hypotheses, carrying out experiments and drawing conclusions before explaining their findings last week during the annual science fair.

Among them were Grade 7 students Austin Fuchko and Austin Nixon, whose project called Biogas Battle: Manure vs. Compost inquired which is a better choice for bio digestion: animal manure or compost?  

The pair hypothesized that the former would create the most biogas since manure created more energy as compared with wood during a similar experiment they conducted last year.

However, after wrapping up the roughly month-long project the results surprised them, and based on the data they obtained, concluded that “the compost worked remarkably better than the manure.”

Although their findings indicate manure is more energy efficient when burned, as opposed to being turned into biogas in an airtight anaerobic digester, they concluded that, “compost has taken the crown for the biogas production.”

Potential follow-up tests could include conducting the experiment using different types of manure as well as trying a larger anaerobic digester to see how results might be affected.

Grade 6 student Georgia Winters attempted to shed some light on the science of happiness, asking what no doubt many have wondered over the course of history: Is there an equation for happiness?

Winters hypothesized that interconnected relationships with others combined with a dose of physical activity and acts of kindness pave the way to fostering happiness.

Scientifically speaking, she concluded that happiness can be measured. In both of her tests, the level of happiness for people who participated “increased when they were intentional to add my equation for happiness.”

Regardless of who someone is or where he or she lives, she wrote that, “when you are intentional and add activities that release the four ‘happy hormones’ — oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin — your level of happiness will increase.”

Acts of kindness, which are not necessarily a natural default setting, equally benefit not only the giver, but also the receiver as well as witnesses, her conclusion reads.  

“Most people were surprised their level of happiness could increase with intentional activity.”

Considering what direction her research could go next, Winters wrote that she would include people into the test group who suffer from depression and mental health issues.

“I would have everyone keep a logbook and record their emotions and level of happiness before and after they performed each task.”

Given the opportunity, she would also conduct the test twice — once during a week of pleasant weather and again when conditions turn miserable to see what effect the weather has.

Judges graded the projects on Thursday, Jan. 30, followed afterwards by a public viewing opportunity. Winters as well as Nixon and Fuchko received first place in their grades for their projects, said Michelle Hindbo, Grade 3 teacher and science fair facilitator.

The fair provides school staff and students another opportunity to connect with the community, said Hindbo, expressing gratitude for all of the volunteers who come out to support the young scientists. 

"It also allows students to explore and showcase their scientific skills and knowledge for their peers and community. This year, we had 24 student projects from kindergarten to Grade 7, and 30 students involved," she said. 

Many of them, she added, will now have the chance to attend the Mountainview Science and Technology Society Science Fair on Saturday, Feb. 29 in Olds as well as the Central Alberta Regional Science Fair in Red Deer later in March.