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Students star at Bioscience Conference

Worthington Middle School students Sam Burns (left) and Alex Scholtes demonstrated how to split water and collected hydrogen in one tube and oxygen in the other during Friday's Regional Bioscience Conference.2 / 3
Members of the Worthington High School Robotics team talk with members of the public about the robot they built that can throw Frisbees, climb ladders and is driven with a remote control.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- As part of the Regional Bioscience Conference, the Worthington Middle School Science Club and Worthington High School Robotics Team showed off their scientific achievements on Friday.

"This is just eighth grade, and it's a voluntary, afterschool class that meets about twice a month," said Tim Doeden, who coaches the Science Club with Abby Fishbach.

During the regular meetings, the group works on projects or does labs. They also take one or two field trips annually, Doeden said.

The Science Club aims to get students excited about science before they choose high school classes and encourages them to think about a career in the sciences.

"That's what research shows - that if you wait until high school, it's too late and kids have already made their decision," Doeden said. "We get them excited and then they register for high school classes, and maybe they will look at some career plan in the sciences."

Some of those students may eventually return to the Worthington area to work in the biosciences, Doeden added.

Forty-seven students displayed projects at the science fair, and the exhibits were "mostly driven by the kids," Doeden said. "Part of it is, we're trying to show them that everything is science."

The type projects varied widely, but in developing and preparing their projects, students learn more than their topic: time management, working as a group, how to test a theory and find the answer to a question that they have.

"It's a lot of fun to hear them say, 'Wow, look at the results we've come up on our own,'" Doeden said.

Sam Burns and Alex Scholtes learned how to split hydrogen from water in a process called electrolysis.

"You create a current with salt water and it creates extra electrons and forces the water molecules to split, and the oxygen will come up one side and the hydrogen will come up the other side," explained Scholtes, gesturing to the two test tube collecting the oxygen and hydrogen.

Both Burns and Scholtes pointed out their project could have local benefits, especially in light of the recent power outages when many people were running generators. The duo proposed that on days with excess electricity, the surplus could be used through electrolysis to collect hydrogen that could be stored and later used as a backup energy source.

Megan Henderson, Skyla Rautenkranz and Alyssa Landwehr experimented with three different types of hair mousse to see which worked best on various hair types. The girls explained they went through the same process to test each one, and each of the girls preferred a different product.

Also displaying the fruits of their labor on Friday was the Worthington Robotics Team. The group of 18 built its robot to compete with other high school students across the state.

"There are actually more robotics teams in Minnesota than there are hockey teams at a high school level," Robotics Coach Richard Owen said.

In its third year of competition, the team was given six weeks to create a robot that could throw Frisbees and climb a pyramid, ladder-type structure.

"At first, it seemed like we'd never get done, but we actually got done before most people," said team member Esteban Fraga, explaining that the team created a robot that was drivable within three weeks and was able to use the rest of the time to trouble-shoot problems.

To build the robot, the team contacted local sponsors that donated parts and funds for the project.

"This robot cost about $6,000 and that is entry in to the competition -- other stuff, too," Owen said.

After the six weeks, "we had to put it in a crate and box it up," said Owen, explaining that competitions are spread across the U.S. over multiple months, and boxing the robots after six weeks gives everyone the same amount of building time.

During competition, points were given on how well the robots were able to complete the various tasks.

"If you can get your robot to run autonomously -- so it goes by itself -- and you have 30 seconds to do that, and if you do, you get extra points for that," Owen said.

After that, more points were award through each round.

"Our strategy this year was to consistently be put-ting points on the board," Owen said. "We weren't the highest scoring, but we scored points every match."

The Worthington robotics team finished 26 out of 99 during their competition -- "the best we've ever done," Owen said.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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