Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

3-24-08

Contacts:

Andrea Spencer, State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa, (515) 460-5559, aspence@iastate.edu Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Serious student science featured at State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa

AMES, Iowa -- Shelby Sieren is already doing some research and development for the biodiesel industry.

The 17-year-old junior at Keota High School in southeast Iowa has been trying to figure out what biodiesel producers can do with all the glycerin left over from their fuel production. The colorless, odorless sugar alcohol can be used as a solvent and lubricant. It has medical and pharmaceutical uses. It can be used in paints and coatings. But the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says it's a priority to find new uses for the co-product of biodiesel production.

Sieren thinks she has one: energy.

She's taken corn stalks, prairie grass, wood chips and other biomass sources and soaked them in glycerin from three different biodiesel plants. She's burned her fuel and measured the energy produced in the lab of Albert Ratner, a University of Iowa assistant professor of mechanical engineering. And now she's preparing to take her findings to the 51st State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa.

The fair will be Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29, at Hilton Coliseum and the Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus. Nearly 550 sixth graders through high school seniors -- a state science fair record -- will bring their research projects to campus and compete for more than $75,000 in scholarships and prizes.

The fair is free and open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. March 28 at Hilton Coliseum. Public hours continue from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 29 at Hilton and the Scheman Building. An award ceremony is 4 to 6 p.m. March 29 in Hilton.

A keynote address at 7 p.m. March 28 in Hilton is also open to the public. Robert Adams, an engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will tell the students about "All I Needed to Know."

The top prizes for the two best high school individuals and the top high school team will be expenses-paid trips to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair May 11-17 in Atlanta.

Andrea Spencer, the director of the science fair and a science fair graduate, said she can't wait for this year's version.

"I love science fair," Spencer said. "I just enjoy seeing the kids and what they come up with."

They come up with some projects that are of obvious appeal to students. A few of their project titles include: "Which Energy Drink Gives You the Most Jolt?" "Music in Your Heart," "Is there a Direct Correlation between Sleep Hygiene and Class Grades?" and "Does the Size of the TV Affect How Well You Perform in a Video Game?"

But there are also projects that take on timely science and technology challenges, such as Sieren's glycerin project.

That project "is pretty amazing," said Kate Shindelar, a Keota High School science teacher who's working with Sieren. "She has worked hard. And if it's not perfectly done, she'll go back and make sure it's perfect."

Sieren's project has already won the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair. And she thinks she'll do well at the state fair in Ames as well.

She has, after all, been competing in science fairs since she was in seventh grade. She's also one of the top prize winners from last year's fair. And so Sieren -- who can tell you all about the joules of energy produced per gram of her mixtures of glycerin and biomass -- knows what it takes to develop a good science fair project.

And yes, she said, science fair is a good place to learn. There are, of course, the conclusions associated with each project. But there are also lessons in communication, statistics, data analysis and career choices.

"I'm definitely going into a science field," Sieren said. "This project took me really far."

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Iowa State University is the host of the 2008 State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. Major sponsors are Iowa State University Extension, the Iowa Energy Center, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Iowa Biotechnology Association and Monsanto.

Shelby Sieren

Shelby Sieren

Quick look

The State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa will be Friday and Saturday, March 28-29, on the Iowa State University campus. The fair is free and open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. March 28 at Hilton Coliseum. Public hours continue from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 29 at Hilton and the Scheman Building. An award ceremony is 4 to 6 p.m. March 29 in Hilton. A keynote address at 7 p.m. March 28 in Hilton is also open to the public. Robert Adams, an engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will tell the students about "All I Needed to Know."

Quote

"I love science fair. I just enjoy seeing the kids and what they come up with."

Andrea Spencer, the director of the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa and a science fair graduate