Elementary School Science Fair – Water, Lasers and Red Tape

October 30, 2017

I vaguely remember the science fair in elementary school.  I thumbed through the encyclopedia and found instructions to make an ear model out of an oatmeal can.  Using a pan of water, placed carefully at the exit of the oatmeal ear, with a sound source placed on the other end of the ear canal, the water would vibrate.  You could then see the sound ripple in the water.

I toted my older brother’s stereo player to school to be my sound source, which made me feel beyond cool, even though I was also toting along an oatmeal can ear model.

Over a month ago, my oldest, who is in third grade, jumped in the car after school exclaiming the science fair was coming.  He was so excited!  He held in his hand a stapled collection of papers outlining the processes, procedures and restrictions of the science fair.

I flipped through the papers and quickly concluded that I needed to return to school for an advanced degree, or maybe two.  Things sure have changed.

I do not remember the science fair coming with such a complicated assortment of regulations and rules as well as forms to fill out.  A couple of friends were posting similar sentiments on social media, lamenting about the complexity and confusion of the red tape a child had to navigate in order to simply participate in the science fair.

Feeling the pressure of the parents, the principle of our elementary school sent a communication advising you could bypass the forms and still participate, but your child wouldn’t be able to compete.

I’m a believer in participating in the science fair for the educational value.  But, shouldn’t a child get to have a little butterfly in his belly at the thought of finding his experiment adorned with a ribbon after the experiments are evaluated?  That is, without having to translate several pages of rules and regulations as well as fill out several forms signing in blood that you aren’t using microorganisms and what not?

My son came up with his experiment on his own.  He actually knew it the moment he presented the forms to me.  He set about to determine,  “How Is Water or Salt Water Affected by a Laser and How Does a Laser Affect Water or Salt Water?”

And together we limped along to complete the needed forms, so he could compete in the fair.

One $12 laser purchase later and he was devising the parameters for his experiment and how he would test his hypotheses.Science Experiment - Ear

Science Fair Board - EarAll I did was take pictures and type what he dictated (because he types at about 5 words per minute and I didn’t have the patience left for that after completing the necessary forms 😉 ).  I think he did a pretty good job!

The science fair starts Wednesday.  Between now and then is Halloween and an undecided Spider-Man/Ninja, Bat Girl and a black spider (whose costume I still have to make).

It is all good fun and provides a nice distraction to having to say goodbye to another furry friend last week.  He was a sweet friend we had to part ways with after the twins were born just over six years ago.  Zeppelin Von Gunther.

Zeppelin - Ear

A sweet and remarkable fellow who is now chasing tennis balls with Bella.

Zeppelin and Bella were arguably two of the best German Shepherds to have ever lived.

Bella and Zeppelin - earPerhaps I will share more about our time together another time.

For now, I must piece together some spider legs!  Nothing like last minute.  And, nothing like a nice distraction to keep your mind off of loss.


How the Ear Works

As a throw back to the early 80s and my ear science fair exhibit, here is a bit about how the human ear functions.

The pinna, which is part of the outer ear, collects sounds.  Sound then enters through the ear canal, or meatus.  The drum vibrates as the sound waves hit it.  The vibrations then pass through to the middle ear, which is separated from the outer ear by the eardrum.

The hammer, anvil and stapes in the middle ear amplify the sound.  The vibrations hit the hammer, which pushes the anvil which then hits the stapes.

The middle ear connects to the back of the throat and nose through the Eustachian tube.

The vibrations from the middle ear then pass through to the inner ear, which is located in a tiny space of the temporal bone.  It is made up of three structures:  the cochlea, three semicircular canals and the vestibule.  It is the cochlea (shaped like a snail) that converts energy vibrations from the inner ear into nerve impulses which can then be sent to the brain.

The other two parts, the vestibule and the semicircular canals are responsible for balance and equilibrium.  When the head is turned or changes position, the fluids in the canals move and help the brain to identify the extent of movement.

Prior to their passing, both Bella and Zeppelin had fought vestibular disease for several months.  Vestibular disease is caused by a disruption to the function of the inner ear.

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