A group of Kennedy Catholic middle schoolers got a taste of college life when they went to Slippery Rock University to present research projects.
Six eighth-graders on Feb. 22 took first place in the annual Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science regional competition.
“This is not a science fair,” Mindy Epstein, middle school interim science teacher, said. “They’re judged by professors in this field. This is how you would present if you were in college.”
The kids were treated to checking out the SRU campus as well as giving a PowerPoint presentation about their research project to a group of their peers from other schools.
“At first when I got up there, I went a little fast,” Victoria Popovitch said. “Then it was okay. There were only eight kids and four judges.”
Victoria took second place with her project on chapsticks, called Potions and Lotions. She has experimented with chapsticks since elementary school, so she thought she’d base her project on making her own.
Her classmates, Gabriala Titus and Aidan Wanner, took home the gold. Aidan walked away with the director’s award in Junior High Ecology.
Aidan lives on a farm in Volant and was curious to see if corn would be sweeter in the morning, afternoon or evening. He guessed corn he picked in the morning would be the sweetest.
Aidan picked corn in the morning, afternoon and evening and tested its sweetness with diabetic test strips. They were all equal in sweetness.
Gabriala tested people from a wide range of ages on time perception.
She had them sit in a room for five minutes and report to her how much time they thought passed.
“One little kid thought two hours passed,” Gabriala laughed.
Gabriala’s hypothesis that older people would think less time passed was correct, until she blindfolded her subjects.
It turns out older people reported they thought more time passed when blindfolded than young subjects had.
The kids have been preparing for this since before last summer.
“Mrs. Alford started talking about it in seventh grade, and set up a summer class,” Victoria said.
The kids credited Peggy Alford, Kennedy science teacher, for preparing them and also Epstein, who picked up where Alford left off after being forced to miss months of the school year for health reasons.
“Mrs. Epstein helped us whenever we needed help,” Victoria said.
Epstein is experienced in the ways of PJAS. She has five years under her belt as a PJAS judge and was a student of Alford’s at the former St. Joseph School, Sharon. Alford took the eighth grade to PJAS for more than 30 years.
All 36 eighth-graders practiced their presentation daily. They even tested their projects in front of kids in other grades.
“I was nervous but once I started using no note cards I did better,” Aidan said. “I just memorized my whole presentation.”