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Award winners at the Alabama Science and Engineering Fair included Harshtha Chander, from left, Grace Nuzman, Laya Gowder and Ishita Rajput. The girls attend Heritage Elementary School. CONTRIBUTED

Heritage’s Chander, Nuzman, Gowder and Rajput shine at state science fair

MADISON – Aspiring scientists and technicians at Heritage Elementary School impressed judges at the Alabama Science and Engineering Fair.

This year, the state-level fair was held online using a virtual exhibit hall. Students used Zoom to discuss their projects with judges. Sponsors are fifth-grade teacher Jaime Mathison and fourth-grade teacher Sarah Stewart.

Alabama Academy of Science hosted the fair, with support from University of South Alabama and Auburn University, Stewart said.

Heritage student Grace Nuzman earned second place in Behavioral and Social Science with her project, “How Does Smell Affect Your Mood?” Nuzman investigated the connection between certain smells and the feelings they evoke, Stewart said.

In Earth and Environmental Science, Harshtha Chander and Ishita Rajput claimed third place. Chander and Rajput submitted a group project, “Salt Iodine Test,” that investigated ways to test food for the presence of iodine.

Laya Gowder received Honorable Mention in Behavioral and Social Sciences with “Show Me Your True Colors.” Gowder used paper chromatography to analyze the components of different pigments.

To qualify for the state-level Alabama Science and Engineering Fair, students had to earn a place win in one of five regional competitions. First, Heritage students had to compete at the North Alabama Regional Science Fair, hosted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“Students chose their own research questions for projects. They carried out their projects independently and documented and submitted results online to enter the science fair,” Stewart said.

“Instead of the usual trifold board, they had to upload a digital presentation, including a video summary of the project. Students then met with judges on Zoom to discuss their projects,” Stewart said. “Students followed a similar procedure to submit project materials online and meet with judges for the state fair.”

By entering inter-school contests, students can explore scientific topics that interest them beyond classroom learning, Stewart said. “They learn to design and carry out an experiment and communicate their conclusions. It encourages students to be independent learners and to investigate the world around them.”

In addition, students find solutions to real-world problems, which could lead them to pursue a career in science or engineering.

“For teachers, we enjoy … seeing our students take their science knowledge outside of the classroom in a competitive setting,” Mathison said. “Heritage students are leaders in and out of the classroom. It’s always a pleasure to see them doing what they love on the Alabama stage.”

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