DMS Science Fair crowns winners

Its title served notice that the project by Haley Thomas would be a serious contender at the 2017 Dillon Middle School Science Fair.

And “Do Different Environmental Conditions Affect Macroinvertebrate Populations Sampled from Mud and Gravel Substrates in Southwest Montana,” did indeed earn Thomas the 8th-Grade Grand Champion award last week at the annual DMS event.
Evelyn Hansen’s “Does Temperature Affect Water-Dwelling Insects” proved just as successful, gaining her the 7th-Grade Grand Champion title at the DMS Science Fair, which also honored a dozen other students for their contributions to the annual competition.

The 7th-grade Grand Champion in 2016, Jace Fitzgerald got first-place this year in the 8th-Grade Biological science category for his “May the Best Crop Win: GMO vs. Non-GMO Seeds.”

Malcolm Peterson delivered a second-place finish in the same category with his “Which Type of Manure Produces the Most Methane,” while Evelyn’s sister Emily Hansen took home the third-place ribbon for “Squash at its Best.”

In the 8th-Grade Physical science category, Madalen Shipman took first place for “The Surprising Toughness of Eggshells,” to add to her first-place finish in the same category for 7th graders last year.

“The Flame Retardant Capabilities of Different Fabrics and Detergents” netted Daxon Graham a second-place ribbon in that category for eighth graders, with Tynan Ostler gaining third for an investigation into “Your Favorite Fabrics: Do They Keep You Warm?”

Connor Vezina nabbed first place for “Algae Growth and Cleaners” in the 7th-grade Biological division, where Daniel Martin gained silver for “Erosion” and Treyton Anderson’s “Soda and Exercise” came in third.

Jack Gibson’s exploration into “Helmets and Concussions” garnered him the top spot in the 7th-grade Physical science category, in which Garret Wahl came in second for “Wheel Size and Electricity” and bronze went to Shane Lenegar’s “Ballistics.”

Offering further proof that sound science pays dividends into the future, the 2017 championship efforts by Evelyn Hansen and Haley Thomas got inspired by the same entry in last year’s DMS Science Fair—the “Do Different Stream Substrates Affect the Diversity, Density and Quantity of Microinvertebrates?” project that earned Thomas top spot in the seventh-grade Biological science category in 2016.

“I saw that experiment and thought it was cool,” said Hansen.

“And I like fishing and really enjoy hanging out with my dad. So, I wanted to do something that was fun and a little more interactive,” added Hansen, whose father, Dr. Burke Hansen, lent a helping hand (and feet) to his daughter’s effort.

“My dad was actually nice enough to go into the water for me. He just went in and used the stomping method. He walked around and tried to kick up some mud,” smiled Hansen.

A connection to dad and fishing also informed the project by Thomas, daughter of University of Montana Western Geology Professor Rob Thomas

“I talked to my dad and asked him about experiments I could do,” recalled Haley of a conversation last year that initially inspired her to look into substrates for scientific evidence related to macroinvertebrates (a group of critters consisting mostly of aquatic bugs).

“I told him some things I’m interested in. And I really like fishing, too. And with fishing, the more bugs you have, the more fish you get,” laughed Thomas, who likes to cast for trout in area streams and rivers.

“I had a lot of fun doing this project. That’s partly why I continued it—because I did like it a lot last year. I wanted to gather more information about it,” revealed Thomas, who also measured water quality and temperature for her project in this year’s DMS Science Fair.

“A lot of what I found was the same as last year. It mostly has to do with the substrate they are sampled from that affects the bugs,” explained Thomas, who earned a gold ribbon at last year’s Montana State Science Fair.

“But I was surprised because I thought the water quality would change, and it didn’t the whole time I tested. I was also surprised that the temperature didn’t have that much of an effect. It obviously had an effect on how many there were, but not on how much diversity there was,” said Thomas of her bug census.

Hansen also came across the unexpected—or rather, did not come across the expected—during her figurative and literal digging into the substrates of the Beaverhead River.

“I did know mayflies and stoneflies would vary a lot. I was surprised how much that the midge pupa did, because they had the highest average, and the caddisflies, the way they disappeared,” added Hansen, who surveyed the substrates in November, December, January and February.

To the surprise of no one familiar with its past, this year’s DMS Science Fair attracted a number of fine entries among its 155 projects submitted by the school’s 7th and 8th graders.

“I thought everybody did a good job with their projects. We will be taking some very good projects to state this year,” said Jack Schoonen, who oversees the annual contest with fellow DMS science teacher Andrew Zitzer.

Schoonen and Zitzer will accompany the 2017 DMS Science Fair grand champions, along with the first-place and second-place finishers in each category, when they take their projects this weekend to the 2017 Montana State Science Fair, which will run March 26–28 at the University of Montana’s Adams Center in Missoula.