Student scientists tackle big issues with projects

Ellie Thiebwacha won a gold medal for her project "Ocean Acidification."

JOSHUA TREE — Collecting germs, exploring solar power and understanding climate change — about 100 students gathered at Joshua Tree Elementary School Wednesday night for the Morongo Unified School District science fair.

Students from the 11 elementary schools who had already competed at their school fairs brought their projects to compete for gold, bronze and silver medals. They also competed for the chance to move on to the county science fair March 10. 

“We have about 4,000 to 5,000 elementary students across the district. These are the very best projects of those elementary students,” said Morongo Unified School District Superintendent Tom Baumgarten.

Top prize winners at the county-wide science fair will go on to the state science fair at the end of April.

Among the projects going to the county-wide science fair is a gold-medal-winning “Ocean Acidification” by Morongo Valley Elementary School student Ellie Thiebwacha. Thiebwacha’s project explored the effects of ocean acidification on shells of marine life. She placed shells in jars of seawater with varying pH levels and, after 30 days, found that shells in the more acidic water decreased in weight.

“I’ve been really interested in the environment lately and I wanted to do something that had to do with climate change because I feel like it’s really important right now,” she said. “I want to continue to study the environment and environmental science in the future.”

Also moving to the county-wide science fair is the gold-medal-winning project “How Germy is Your Cell Phone?” by Onaga Elementary School fifth-grader Jedi Pierce. 

Pierce collected samples from his phone along with other items he touched throughout the day, including a light switch and a school desk, and incubated the samples in agar for a week.

He found that his cellphone carried about the same amount of germs as his computer keyboard and water bottle and while it was germy it was not as germy as his toilet or the human nose.

“I wasn’t too surprised by the nose swab or the toilet swab,” he said.

Eleven other gold medal winners will compete at the district.

“The students did such a great job on these projects,” said science fair coordinator Karla Buchanan.

Morongo Unified School District

Science Fair

Gold medal

•Ellie Thiebwacha, “Ocean Acidification,” Morongo Valley Elementary School.

•Jedi Pierce, “How Germy is Your Cell Phone?” Onaga Elementary School.

•Layla Holverda: “How Clean is Your Fruit,” Twentynine Palms Elementary School.

•Raegan Brimhall, “Memorize? Try Exercise,” Onaga Elementary School.

•William McMurachy, “Solar Power Shower,” Onaga Elementary School.

•Wesley McDavis, “Sight vs. Taste,” Joshua Tree Elementary School.

•Carson Benedict, “Blast Off!” Onaga Elementary School.

•Liam Stoermer, “Solar Solutions,: Onaga Elementary School.

•Kaiden Nazario, “Grocery Germs,” Friendly Hills Elementary School.

•Alex Chavez, “School Germs,” Friendly Hills Elementary School.

•Richard Breese, “Which Beverage Releases the Most Gas?” Oasis Elementary School.

•Zoe Youngman, “The Wizarding World of Magnetic Levitation,” Oasis Elementary School.

•Amelia McMurachy, “From Waste to Energy,” Onaga Elementary School.

•Tom Ray’s sixth-grade class, “Which Color is the Easiest to See?”

Silver medal winners

•Ethan Snider, “The Best of the Best,” Joshua Tree Elementary School.

•Ezra Youngman, “Just Plane Fun,” Oasis Elementary School.

•Esther Benton, “Who Will Win?” Palm Vista Elementary School.

•Ronnie Hickman, “Which Filtration Material Leads to the Cleanest Water,” Landers Elementary School.

•Ricky Abbott, “Electric Car Regenerative Dual Battery System,” Onaga Elementary School.

•Kendra Rester, “Mold Growth,” Landers Elementary School.

•Izabel Valdez, “Shape your Thoughts,” Morongo Valley Elementary School.

•Josiah Goode, “Pearly Browns,” Twentynine Palms Elementary School.

•Roman Margo, “Fire Dance,” Twentynine Palms Elementary School.

•Graeson Covert, “You’re the Balm,” Palm Vista Elementary School.

•Mystie Ann Frey, “Which Substance Can Melt Ice the Quickest?” Landers Elementary School.

Bronze Medal Winners

•Blake Marriott, “Paper Airplane Race,” Friendly Hills Elementary School.

•Byanca Powell, “Which Disinfectant is Better: Clorox or Lysol?” Joshua Tree Elementary School.

•Ryan Kiter, “Electromagnets,” Oasis Elementary School.

•Ansley Dalby, “Hydropower,” Twentynine Palms Elementary School.

•Jazabelle Valdez, “Sailed,” Morongo Valley Elementary School.

•Austin Abergo, “Can We Make Batteries From Pennies?” Condor Elementary School.

•Blake Morrison, “The Attachable Cleat,” Friendly Hills Elementary School.

•Brady Iman, “Trebuchet,” Joshua Tree Elementary School.

•Amarah Banerjee, “Coolest Way to Cool Your Can,” Oasis Elementary School.

•Lily Gaunt, “Which Popcorn Pops the Best?” Yucca Valley Elementary School.

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