ESF Environmental Challenge Exposes Students to College, STEM Activities

     Published on 5/20/15   Tagged under:    District News   

Seventh and eighth graders from SCSD middle schools ventured to the Carrier Dome to take part in the 14th SUNY ESF Environmental Challenge. Initially started as an event on the ESF campus with only 30 participants, the Challenge has now grown to feature anywhere from 300-500 students, all from the Syracuse City School District.
This year, students from Clary, Danforth, Ed Smith, ELMS, Frazer, Grant, Huntington, H.W. Smith, Huntington, Lincoln, Roberts and Westside Academy at Blodgett participated. Turnout was so high that nearly 100 volunteers were needed to serve as judges!
Students were more than happy to share the facts they learned through their scientific research. A group of students from Westside Academy at Blodgett studied how seasons change in each hemisphere. Seventh grader Micheal Watson gave some of the group’s findings, noting, “Australia doesn’t get ‘Syracuse cold!’” His classmate, Iganacio Casanova, said it wasn’t the topic but the subject itself that he was interested in. “I like science because it’s interesting—you get to discover new things,” he said.
Nyan Price, a seventh grader at Danforth, agreed. “Science is a way for you to build stuff and it proves that there is more to do than sit around the house!” Nyan’s project was a building a ping pong catapult—something he found to be a fun challenge. “I had to find out what angle the arm should go to make it work best,” he explained. “I found out that 120 degrees is perfect.”
Eighth grade Grant student Melisha Egerton was equally as dedicated to her project, examining the impact of acid rain on the earth. “My project made me more interested in the environment,” she explained. “We want more and more things today, like cars and other items, but these things could be ruining our future,” she continued, noting that acid rain is caused in part by burning fossil fuels.
Brandon Murphy, Technology/Project Coordinator at SUNY ESF, has been coordinating the event for the last five years.  He said the experience that students get when they participate is what sets the Environmental Challenge apart from other events. “Part of the spirit of it is that it’s a more inclusive science fair,” he said. “Our intention is to provide students with the experience of doing a research project and presenting it to outside people. We also try to do campus tours while students are here. It’s about the whole experience—not just winning an award.”
For students like Huntington eighth graders Antoinice Chavis and Imani Robinson, that atmosphere was perfect. The two worked together to power a light bulb using a potato—noting that their efforts were unsuccessful. “It didn’t work for us,” Imani explained, noting that perhaps they used a light bulb that was too big and needed more electricity than they created. “I like doing experiments, though, even if they do fail,” she added.
Mr. Murphy noted that a variety of professionals volunteer to judge at the Environmental Challenge—from ESF faculty and staff to graduate and undergraduate students to local businesspeople. Each project is judged by at least three people to give students the exposure of interacting with a variety of people.
Roberts seventh grader Donovan Collins enjoyed the opportunity to present his project, examining the glucose levels in various fruit juices. “This is a practical project for me because some people in my family are diabetic,” he explained. “This helped us learn what to eat and what not to eat. I like science and I usually do projects on food. Nutrition labels have information about sugar and fat content, but sometimes it’s not accurate. I like to measure on my own to check!”
Of the more than 400 projects entered this year, many received a ribbon indicating that judges considered them to be exceptional. Congratulations to all students who participated, and thank you to SUNY ESF for hosting such a great event! 

Click through the science fair yourself by visiting our Flickr album! >>>