A first of firsts for Sequim student scientists

By Ron Tognazzini

For the Sequim Gazette

For the first time since 2005, each Sequim student that competed in the the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair was awarded a first-place honor in their category.

More than 600 students took part in Washington’s 60th state science and engineering event, held at Bremerton High School on March 31-April 1. A total of 259 students in grades 1-12 from 86 schools statewide earned first place.

Eight Sequim students, many of whom have been working on their projects since this time last year, entered six projects.

Alliyah Weber and Anastasia Updike from Sequim Middle School entered a team project titled “Effectiveness of a Novel Fire Retardant in Fighting Wildfires” and were awarded the only Best of Category Award for Grade 6.

In this project, the students compared the mineral zeolite to the currently used sodium tetra-borate (Borax) for both dry and wet slurry mixtures as a fire retardant. They found that zeolite slurry reduced fire suppression times by as much as 78 percent compared to 42 percent with Borax. Dry zeolite applied over combustible material resulted in 31 percent less damage to the material compared to Borax. They also found that zeolite was safe to use on germinating plant seeds, while Borax was not.

Their recommendation was that zeolite should be used for fighting wildfires in lieu of Borax because it wouldn’t take as much material to produce the same results.

Their impressive project attracted the attention of the Washington State Association of Fire Marshals, which awarded these two students with a first place for fire science and safety, along with six other special awards that they earned.

See below for all six projects entered from the Sequim Science Fair Club:

Grade 6

Alliyah Weber and Anastasia Updike — “Effectiveness of a Novel Fire Retardant in Fighting Wildfires.” Awards: WSSEF First Place – Grade 6; Best of 6th Grade Category Award; Central Valley Garden Club – Earth and Environmental Sciences; Navy League of the U.S. – Bremerton Olympic Peninsula Counsel STEM Award; Margaret I. Lugg – Young Explorers Award; Washington State Association of Fire Marshals – Fire Science and Safety First Place Grades 1-6 Award; Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) – Nomination; Pacific Science Center – Family Membership for a Project of Excellence; USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station – Outstanding Natural Resource project

Grade 7

Abigail Carlson and Olivia Webb — “The Effect of Different pH Levels on Plant Growth.” Award: WSSEF First Place – Grade 7

Grade 8

Jace Francis — “A Comparison of Soil Additives for Water and Nitrate Retention.” Awards: WSSEF First Place – Grade 8; Washington Society of Professional Soil Scientists – best project related to soil science Grades 7-8

Paola Villegas — “Sand Dollars as Indicators of Metal Contamination in Marine Sediments.” Awards: WSSEF First Place – Grade 8; Office of Naval Research – Exceptional Work in Science and Engineering; Navy League of the U.S. – Bremerton Olympic Peninsula Counsel – STEM Award; Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) – Nomination; Association for Women Geoscientists – Award of Excellence; Pacific Science Center – Family Membership

Grade 9

Vita Olson — “Design and Construction of Anchored Buoy Systems to support Scientific Instruments in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.” Awards: WSSEF First Place – Engineering Mechanics; Marine Sciences – Best Marine Engineering for Grades 9-12

Grade 10

Sean Weber — “Evidence of Paleo-Seismic events in the Hood Canal of Washington State.” Awards: WSSEF First Place – Earth and Environmental Sciences; USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station Seattle Award for Excellence in Statistical Thinking; GENIUS Olympiad international high school project competition focusing on environmental issues – Nomination; Water Environment Federation U.S. Regional Stockholm Junior Water Prize – Nomination; National Oceanic &Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – “Taking the Pulse of the Planet” Award; Olympic College President’s Award for STEM Project in Grade 10.