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Mar 31
Science fair teaches life skills

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Judges Meghan Manary and Martin Steinbeck listen as Dawn Castle, a junior at Chase County High School in Imperial, explains her science project. It was part of a science fair Thursday at North Platte Community College.

If the minds gathered in the North Platte Community College McDonald-Belton Gymnasium on Thursday were any indication of what's to come, then the future is in good hands.

A total of 126 students from eight area high schools and middle schools were in the gym to compete in an annual science fair at NPCC.

The main purpose of the event, according to Judy Ritta, executive director of the Central Nebraska Area Health Education Center in Grand Island, was to encourage students to develop an appreciation for science and consider it as a possible career field.

"Most of these kids started working on their projects the first semester of the school year as part of a science class," said Ritta. "Through the process, they have learned to conduct research, prepare a presentation and speak in public."

She's a firm believer that the fairs also boost confidence.

"Not all kids are involved in athletics," said Ritta. "For those who aren't, this science fair gives them another area to excel in."

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Landry Geiger, a student at Cozad Middle School, adjusts an electronic maze he created for a science fair at North Platte Community College on Thursday. Geiger was one of the top five in his division.

Students were allowed to investigate any subject they wanted. Projects ranged from the effect of temperature on golf balls and store–bought soap versus homemade soap to what color insects are most attracted to and whether intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) can protect people with immune deficiency.

"I researched whether a deflated football would give athletes an advantage over an inflated football," said Andrew Lindemeier, who represented North Platte St. Pat's in the competition.

Dawn Castle, a junior at Chase County High School in Imperial, conducted research to determine which color of Skittles had the strongest flavor and could be identified first in a taste test.

Matthew Wendell, an eighth grade student from Perkins County Schools in Grant, used his project to prepare for a future profession.

"I want to go into forensics," said Wendell. "So, I analyzed what parts of fingerprints are inherited."

Randy Lienemann, president of the Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences (NJAS) in Lincoln, said some of his former students got started on their current career paths through science fairs such as the one at NPCC. That's part of the reason he was so excited about the attendance on Thursday.

"This is one of the biggest groups we've had," said Lienemann. "What we're seeing is that more schools are starting to do science fair projects. It's a trend that's growing across the state."

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Andrew Lindemeier, a student from North Platte St. Pat's, gives a presentation Thursday during science fair at North Platte Community College. He researched whether a deflated football would give athletes an advantage over an inflated football.

The science fair was sponsored by the Nebraska Academy of Science and the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Omaha.

Winners received medals and ribbons. Additionally, the top five high school students and top five middle school students advanced to the 2016 Junior Academy State Science Fair at the Strategic Air and Space Museum at Ashland on April 21.

Eighth grade winners were invited to attend the State Science Meet at UNMC on June 9-11. The meet is designed to introduce students to careers in science and health care.

The following are the results of the NPCC science fair. The top five students at the high school level were (in no particular order):

  • Caroline Schaecher, Ogallala High School
  • Leigh-Anne Lehmann, Eustis-Farnam Public Schools
  • Colton Thompson, Eustis-Farnam Public Schools
  • Samantha Jack, Eustis-Farnam Public Schools
  • Alexa Simmerman, Ogallala High School

The top five in the middle school division were (in no particular order):

  • Samuel Aden, Gothenburg Public Schools
  • Landry Geiger, Cozad Middle School
  • Kaitlyn Harrison, Gothenburg Public Schools
  • Marinn Niesen, North Platte St. Pat's
  • Samuel McArtor, Perkins County Schools

Heather Johnson
Area Communications Specialist

Heather produces and distributes press releases for the college. She began work at MPCC in 2014. Prior to that, she spent five years as the news director/web manager for Eagle Radio in North Platte. From 2009-2014 she worked as a reporter/photographer for The North Platte Telegraph. Heather has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chadron State College.

Brent L. Cobb
McCook Community College News Bureau Coordinator​​​