The brightest bulb


Hundreds of science students from across the state flocked to Laramie this March to take part in the annual Wyoming State Science Fair. With 14 different categories of competition and junior and senior divisions for middle school and high school students, respectively, exhibitions at the fair offered a peek inside the minds of Wyoming’s best and brightest.

Brightest was what Saratoga Middle School (SMS) seventh grader Campbell Grabow was concerned with. Her experiment, titled “The Effect of Different Conductor Lengths on the Intensity of a Light Bulb,” tested whether the length of wire connecting a light bulb to a power source had an effect on the bulb’s brightness. “I found that the longer the wire was the dimmer the bulb was,” Grabow said of her results.

Judges at the local, regional and statewide level were all impressed with Grabow’s project. In order to make it to the state fair, Grabow first had to be selected from a local science fair, where about 50 percent of students in competition were chosen to move on to a regional fair held in Rock Springs, according to SMS science teacher Shaleas Harrison. At the regional fair, the top three finishers in each of the 14 different categories were selected to move on to Laramie, and Grabow finished second in the “Energy and Transportation” category.

Also chosen to head to Laramie from SMS were seventh grader Tasia Daley with a project called “Comparing Water Qualities in Different Water Sources,” eighth grader Kaylen Hunter, whose project was “Learning Processes on Memory” and eighth grader Taylor Bennett whose study was titled “The Effect of Acne Medications on E. coli.”

The fair, which lasted three days from a Sunday to Tuesday, was described by Harrison as a wonderful opportunity for participating students. “It’s a really cool experience for the kids because they get to see the whole process of, you know, seeing their idea through to a final project and then being able to articulate that,” she said.

In Laramie, Grabow’s experiment was awarded the NASA Space Grant Consortium Award. The award included $75 in prize money, and was presented in front of hundreds of fair participants and Grabow’s mother, who made the trip to Laramie with her daughter.

Harrison said “there was a sustainability component (to Grabow’s project) that I think the judges liked.” With what would be the world’s largest windfarm likely coming to the Valley, Grabow’s investigation into the loss of energy as it is transported across distances struck the science teacher as prescient.

Grabow credited her parents with helping her arrive at her “light bulb moment.” “We were just kind of going through ideas thinking about what would work and how we’d test that and eventually we came up with (the idea),” she said. Grabow’s father is an electrician, and the young investigator used some of his instruments in the execution of her project.

Grabow also benefited from a well-stocked science department at SMS. “I’m really lucky to have a few things that I can do to measure things when kids have a question about a research question,” Harrison said.

Though Grabow isn’t sure what line of work she eventually wants to pursue, her future seems, well, bright. “She’ll probably have a great project again next year,” Harrison said confidently.


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