GARY | Hobart High School senior Madeline Jewell noticed water and other residue sitting in the reservoirs of her school’s automatic hand dryers.
Her curiosity about that might be lurking there led her to a scientific study of Bacterial Growth in Public Hand Dryers that she presented over the weekend at the 57th annual Calumet Regional Science Fair at Indiana University Northwest.
The 18-year-old’s scientific research revealed the presence of bacteria in that water and residue left after students washed and dried their hands. Jewell wasn’t allowed to identify the specific bacteria that grew in petri dishes because she didn’t have level 1 safety clearance for this science fair.
However, she said, “It’s of concern to anyone who washes their hands in public.”
Jewell said she plans to study biomedical engineering at either Purdue University in West Lafayette or Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute after high school graduation this spring.
Kyle Groner, enrolled in the fourth-grade advanced class at Schererville’s Peiffer Elementary, wondered what caused areas where fish were no longer found.
Those “dead zones” he discovered during his research phase are created by the phosphates in fertilizers used by farmers and others.
The cycle begins when phosphates travel through streams and rivers, causing blue-green algae to grow, said the 9-year-old.
“The blue-green algae kills the plants, which are the fish’s main food,” he explained. “The fish migrate away from that area.”
In his presentation, Groner illustrated areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast and Atlantic coastline that are current dead zones, where some damage is already done and areas that are recovering.
Jewell and Groner were among 117 students from urban, suburban and rural Lake County schools who participated in the 2013 Calumet Regional Science Fair at IUN. That’s an increase from last year, said Lin Wozniewski, science fair co-coordinator with Kathryn Hedges.
“Some schools, such as the Hammond schools, returned this year after missing for previous years,” said Jim Wozniewski, Lin’s husband and coordinator of the nearly 40 judges from academia, business and industry.
Public and private school students entered the regional science fair in three divisions: elementary, grades first through fifth; junior, including grades sixth through eighth; and the senior division with entrants from grades ninth through 12th.
Top finishing students will continue on to the state science fair April 6 in Indianapolis. Winners in grades nine to 12 will go to the International Science Fair from May 12-17 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Trifold poster display boards filled tables inside the Savannah Center gym at the Gary campus. Each board told the story of the student’s hypothesis or initial idea, how research was conducted, the results and a conclusion that’s supported by the information.