Genetics, Energy Production and Dioramas -- It's Science Fair Season

Mar 10, 2014

Falmouth High School sophomores Alex Yarosh and Marcus Dalpy present their mud-powered fuel cell at the 36th Annual Falmouth Public Schools Science Fair.
Credit Photo by Sarah Nalven

It’s science fair season, when students of all ages assemble dioramas and construct projects to explain complex science in an understandable way. In Falmouth, the 36th annual science fair this past weekend drew teachers, parents, friends and judges to the high school field-house.

Falmouth biology teacher Cory Dubuque has coordinated the fair for the last eight years. He said projects go beyond the expected, touching on everything from genetics to energy production.

"We have a lot of kids doing things out of labs," Dubuque said. "They're testing for nitrogen levels in the water. We have kids doing genetic-type experiments, where they’re testing for certain bacterial plasmids.  We have one student this year, he’s converted a gasoline powered automobile into an electric powered automobile. We have a group of students who are taking mud and turning it into a battery cell, and they’re harnessing electricity from the mud -- just to name a few.

Sophomores Alex Yarosh and Marcus Dalpy designed the mud-powered battery that Dubuque mentioned, which Dalpy said uses bacteria found in mud.

"So our goal or hypothesis, since our project was both an engineering and a science project, was to harness the electrons that the anaerobic bacteria create, which will make the energy," Dalpy said.

There were several projects just as sophisticated. In fact, this year 15 students were selected to move on to the South Shore regional science fair, where Falmouth students traditionally have done well.

Dubuque attributes Falmouth’s science fair success to a few things. First, he said that not many school systems hold science fairs for kindergarten through 12th grade.

“So our kids are really well prepared by the time they go on to the higher levels," Dubuque said. "saidIn fact, a lot of these kids have been doing a science fair project since they were in kindergarten, getting bigger and better.”

Falmouth also has the unique advantage of having the scientific institutions just down the road in Woods Hole. Several science groups and other local organizations also set up educational displays. And Marcus Dalpy, who designed the mud battery, said the Woods Hole researchers make great judges.

"The judges really helped us," Dalpy said. "I think I actually learned a lot more just from talking to the judges even than doing all this research that we did which took a lot of time. So I think it's a really great thing."

The regional science fair for students advancing will be held at Bridgewater State later this month.  They’re expected to do well, considering that in the last five years, six Falmouth students have made it all the way to the international level of competition.