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 what might be lurking there led her to a scientific study titled “Bacterial Growth in Public Hand Dryers,” which she presented this 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 safety clearance for this science fair.
However, she said, “It’s of concern to anyone who washes their hands in public.”
Kyle Groner, enrolled in a fourth-grade advanced class at Schererville’s Peifer Elementary School, wondered what caused "dead zones" in waters where fish are no longer found.
He discovered during his research that they're created by phosphates in fertilizers used by farmers and others.
The cycle begins when phosphates travel through streams and rivers, causing blue-green algae to grow, the 9-year old said.
“The blue-green algae kills the plants, which are the fish’s main food,” he said. “The fish migrate away from that area.”
Jewell and Groner were among 117 students from urban, suburban and rural Lake County schools who participated in the science fair. That’s an increase from last year, said Lin Wozniewski, science fair co-coordinator with Kathryn Hedges.
“We have the most diverse science fair in the state,” Hedges said.
Public and private school students entered the regional science fair in three divisions: grades one to five, grades six to eight and grades nine to 12.
Top finishing students will continue on to the state science fair held in Indianapolis on April 6. Winners in grades nine to 12 will go to the International Science Fair held in Phoenix from May 12 to 17.