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'Where Kids' Minds Go'

SCIENCE PROJECTS -- Model solar systems and paper volcanoes adorn the stage in Hammond Westside Montessori School Thursday for a science fair.

Photo by Connor Raborn

by Connor Raborn reporter@hammondstar.com

Seventh-graders Carter Copsey and Talan Gendron decided to think outside the pizza box for their science fair project.

The two Hammond Westside Montessori School students turned that box into a solar oven for a cheese-melting experiment which they presented to Mayor Pete Panepinto Thursday. They and several other young scientists from Westside discussed their data in the school's gym by setting up posters and models that detailed the teams' research, methods and results.

Copsey and Gendron's solar oven, constructed from a pizza box covered in tinfoil, served to determine the fastest-melting of the three most popular cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Copsey wanted to defy expectations when it was time to pick a project for his second science fair.

"You see all the other ones, and it's like, 'Yeah, there's slime,'" Copsey said. "We just wanted to try something a little bit different."

The two hypothesized the mozzarella would be the first to melt based on its average melting point. However, cold temperatures prevented their solar oven from melting any of their cheesy sample.

Copsey and Gendron were similarly steadfast as Panepinto judged their experiment.

In response to the mayor's questions on sample selection, the two explained they chose to test the three most popular cheeses because they thought it would make the research more "catchy."

Copsey said conducting the experiment was the most difficult part of preparing for the science fair.

Gendron said the tedium of cutting out the letters for their presentation board was the most challenging.

Magnets, balloons, hamster wheels, model solar systems and the science fair staple, paper volcanoes, filled the Hammond Westside Montessori gym Thursday morning.

Another table showcased the work of sixth-graders Briana Brister, Ava Lankford and Olivia Onyeadar.

The team's experiment to see if temperature affects the strength of a magnet showed that it does, Lankford said.

The study entailed placing a steel ball in front of a magnet and measuring how far the ball moved when pulled by the magnet, Brister said.

Onyeadar listed putting the components in boiling water among the temperature variable tests.

The science fair, held the past two years as an optional conclusion to class projects, became a requirement this year, Westside Principal Jason Oller said. The administrator ensured that the school could provide any resources necessary for the students' participation.

"When you give them an expectation, kids will always step up to the plate and show you that they want to be successful," Oller said.

Panepinto enjoyed hearing the students explain their experiments and was impressed by the work he saw.

"It's encouraging to see where kids' minds can go," Panepinto said.

He was glad to see that children had used the internet for academic research, he added.