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Earthworms and Baby Bottles E-mail
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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Earthworms and Baby Bottles

May 15, 2007

By Alisha A. Pina

Case sophomores win scholarships

SWANSEA — She’s 16 YEARS and five months old and $50,000 richer, sort of.

Case High School sophomore Emily Oliveira, who emphasized her age because she can drive in another month, won a $50,000 scholarship to Wheaton College for placing second in her category at the state’s 58th Science and Engineering Fair this past weekend.

Another sophomore, Jamie Yates, won a $10,000 scholarship to UMass Dartmouth.

The two and three other honors biology students, accompanied by teacher Tony Ferreira, represented the school well, principal Brian McCann said. “Swansea was the only public high school in the South Coast conference and our area, with the exception of Taunton High School, that was recognized with awards,” McCann said. “Considering our size, look how we compare to some of the larger public and private schools in the commonwealth!”

He continued, “To be recognized with two second-place awards this year is fantastic validation to our entire science program at Joseph Case High School.”

More than 400 students, an 11 percent increase over last year’s participants, submitted entries for the statewide event. Several had already placed at or near the top in high school and regional competitions. The student, or team of students, selected a subject within 10 categories — such as behavioral science, physics, electronics and computers — and researched it before forming a hypothesis or goal. The students tested their theory with a self-designed experiment and recorded their findings.

The projects were evaluated by five judges May 4 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass. More than $425,000 in cash, prizes and scholarships was distributed at an awards ceremony the next day.

Oliveira, who is interested in behavioral science, studied whether earthworms could learn. She made a T-shaped maze and if the earthworms went to the right, they would find a soil-filled box. If they went left, they got an electric shock. Of 15 worms, Oliveira said most, or 91 percent, learned to turn right.

“I was incredibly surprised,” Oliveira said about her statewide placement. She was first at the school competition and third at the regionals. “The fair was just so huge and there were so many exceptional and spectacular projects.” The Case students said there were experiments studying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and others that examined how students would react if a teacher took a peer out of the room and pretended to strike them in the corridor. Oliveira also said a team of seniors from another school simulated what it would be like if the bird flu came to Massachusetts.

“I couldn’t even understand some of the [other participants’ titles],” Oliveira said while also explaining how long the awards ceremony was. “… Jaime’s [finish] was announced first and I would have been happy if only she won. I had hoped at least one person from our school would place.”

Yates tested whether chemicals leak from plastic baby bottles and if so, if it is dangerous. She used different brands of bottles and put brine shrimp, which are also called sea monkeys, in them to see if they would die.

Chemicals did leak from the bottles and killed the crustaceans.

“Gerber baby bottles were the worst,” said Yates, who placed third at the school competition and second at the regionals. “What’s my suggestion [to parents]? Use glass. It’s best.”

The two haven’t decided whether they will attend the schools they won scholarships from, but Yates said she is sure her parents have made the decision in light of the money. Yates wants to major in architecture and said she was looking into Rhode Island School of Design and UMass Dartmouth, anyway.

Oliveira wants to major in film. She said Wheaton College is certainly more of a possibility now that she has the scholarship, but she truly wants to go to a bigger college in a large city. She said she still has about two years to make a decision.

Her immediate concern is getting her driver’s license next month.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 June 2007 )
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