More than 550 young researchers show off projects, compete for scholarships

AMES, Iowa - They've already studied wind and other alternative energy sources. And that started three students at Glidden-Ralston Junior-Senior High School thinking about where else they could find sources of energy.

What about fruits and vegetables? They're certainly a good source of food energy. But what about electrical energy?

The students' science fair project, "Fruity Energy," takes the first steps toward an answer. Nicole Kasperbauer, a 17-year-old senior, plus Katelynn Kozak and Chris Schon, 17-year-old juniors - working with teacher Angela Lensch - will show off their data and findings at this week's State Science + Technology Fair of Iowa.

The fair is Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2, at Iowa State University's Hilton Coliseum and Scheman Building. Public viewing hours for all projects are 12-5 p.m. on Friday. Junior high projects will also be on display from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.

The three Glidden-Ralston students, all veterans of the statewide fair, found that fruit and vegetables moved the volt meter. And apples were especially energetic.

The students don't have data to explain the differences. But, after doing some background research, they're hypothesizing that it has to do with sugar content.

One thing they're sure about is the fun of displaying their research at the State Science + Technology Fair of Iowa.

"We just love going there," said Schon. "It's fun to walk around and see everybody and the cool projects that expand your mind. The whole experience is just great."

This year, 555 junior high and high school students from across the state will be displaying 424 research projects. Those projects range from "Saving the Planet with the Flip of a Switch" to "Superhamster" to "Unique Genes in Economically Important Fusarium Fungi."

All those students will be competing for more than $75,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a top prize of a $7,500 scholarship for the fair's top high school senior.

But there's more to the fair than impressing judges and competing for scholarships and awards.

"We just hope that the students have a really good educational experience," said Andrea Spencer, the director of the fair. "Interacting with the judges should be educational and fun. We want students to go away with a better understanding of science and scientific research."

The annual fair is hosted by Iowa State. Major sponsors include the Iowa Biotechnology Association, the Iowa Energy Center, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Iowa State College of Engineering, the Iowa Medical Society, Monsanto, Vermeer and the Pella Rolscreen Foundation.