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ROCKETS TAKING OFF: All seven Blowing Rock science students sent to “state” come home with awards

By David Rogers. March 31, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Is it possible that the next Albert Einstein or Louis Pasteur will come from Blowing Rock? How about the next Marie Curie or Rachel Carson? Do you have another top science professional in mind?

COVER IMAGE: Representative of the medals won by Blowing Rock School 6th graders at the March science and engineering competitions in Raleigh. All photographs by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News

They may choose a different career than science, but nine Blowing Rock sixth graders have a foot in the science and engineering door after strong placings in two academic competitions last week in Raleigh. To some at least, the weekend “performances” were unparalleled because every student that Blowing Rock School sent to a state competition won an award at the state level.

Every student that Blowing Rock sent to State competition came home with an award.

blowing rock school science student who won awards at north carolina state competitions
L-R: Iris Westerman, Hayleigh Nunes, Collin Anderson, Sam Nixon, Grant Troyer, Thomas Lehman, Micah Duvall.

In the North Carolina Student Academy of Sciences competition held on Friday, March 23rd, Blowing Rock had four entries spread among Biotechnology, Mathematics, and Physics categories and all came away with either first or second place awards.

  • Biotechnology
    • 1st Place, Sam Nixon. Project: “Sunscreens: Lotions vs. Spray.”  Nixon explained to Blowing Rock News in an on-campus interview that his project was inspired by an ongoing debate he was having with his mother. “She wanted me to use a suntan lotion,” he noted, “while I really preferred a spray. So I wanted to see which does a better job of protection. I discovered that the spray actually provides better coverage and protection.”
  • Mathematics
    • 1st Place, Hayleigh Nunes and Iris Westerman. Project: “What is the Potential of Solar Panels on Blowing Rock School’s Roof?” Westerman explained to Blowing Rock News that they calculated how much the solar panels would cost, as well as how much power they would generate vs. the school’s energy needs. Nunes admitted, “We are worried about climate change and what it will do for the animals as well as the environment in which we are growing up.”
    • 2nd Place, Micah Duvall. Project: “Does the pH Level of Drinking Water Affect the Growth of a Radish Plant?”  Duvall tested several different brands of bottled drinking water, found they had different pH levels, and determined that radish plants responded best to Smartwater, whose pH level is 6.72. “People say that a higher pH in all of these bottled waters is better for (humans), but I was wondering whether it is also true for vegetables.”
  • Physics
    • 1st Place, Thomas Lehman. Project: “Heat Treating Carbon, Tool, and Stainless Steel by Oil Quench and Air Cool to Increase Hardness.”  As for his inspiration, Lehman said, “Last spring my father and I built a forge and we’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about some really cool stuff.

In the Saturday competition for the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair:

  • Biology
    • Sam Nixon repeated his strong Friday performance and was recognized for his “spray vs. lotion” project.
  • Mathematics
    • Hayleigh Nunes and Iris Westerman repeated their award-winning examination of the potential for solar panels on the roof of Blowing Rock School
  • Physics
    • Thomas Lehman repeated his impressive project on heat treating studies
  • Chemistry
    • Grant Troyer and Collin Anderson won Honorable Mention for their project, “How Many Grams of Salt Does It Take For Water Not to Freeze in Freezing Temperatures?”

As Blowing Rock News interviewed the students on Thursday, several of them said that one of the most interesting aspects of the experience was seeing some of the projects being worked on by students from other schools.

Nixon shared, “There was a student from Concord that mixed Vitamin E with something else and studied if it affected a cancer patient.”

Lehman: “I liked this project where a guy did this origami thing where it expanded in a rocket and it was supposed to power the international space station.”

Westerman: “I thought the coolest was about radiation from electronic devices.”

Among the students, only Anderson seemed decisive about pursuing a career in science and is thinking about astrophysics. “Being an astronaut would be cool, but…” He didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence before one of the young ladies in the room interjected, “Too much danger!”

Nunes admitted that she might want to be a doctor, but probably not neurology or cardiology.  “Probably a general practitioner,” she said, cautiously.

Young Nixon is weighing his options. “I might like to be a scientist,” he shared. “Maybe a biologist or sports science, but I also think being a sports announcer would be really cool.”

Although Troyer introduced himself to Blowing Rock News as the most talkative of the group — and all of the others nodded their heads in agreement — he said sports announcing was not in his future. “I think I’d like to be a doctor. Maybe a surgeon. Probably arms and legs, the limbs.”

Sixth-grade teacher Allyson McFalls said of the weekend of competitions, “We had a great weekend of celebrating student research. Blowing Rock School students did exceptionally well and I couldn’t be more proud of the research and work that our students did to prepare for these competitions. In every case, it was well above and beyond what was required of them for the school fair. With all of the first and second places and then topped off by Grant and Collin’s honorable mention, every student that we went to the state competition won an award at the state level.”



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