News Service


Sande McNabb, Forestry/Plant Pathology, (515) 294-3120
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Does El Nino really affect Iowa's weather? What role does green fluorescence protein play on gene therapy and cancer research? How does acid rain affect plants? These are some of the questions that will be explored in more than 350 science projects that make up the 1998 Iowa State Science and Technology Fair. The fair will convene Friday and Saturday (March 27 and 28) at Hilton Coliseum.

The Iowa State Science and Technology Fair is the only statewide general science fair for middle and high school students in Iowa. Fair hours are from 1:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The fair concludes Saturday with an awards ceremony at 6 p.m.

"These are the best science projects from across Iowa," said Sande McNabb, an Iowa State University professor of forestry and plant pathology and director of the fair. "The level of sophistication and the effort these students put into their projects is quite amazing."

Guest speaker at this year's science fair is Paula Mahone, M.D., one of the two perinatologists who delivered the McCaughey septuplets. Mahone will be speak on Friday at 5 p.m. She is medical director of perinatal services at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines, and her role in the delivery of the McCaughey septuplets not only brought national attention to the quality of health care in Iowa, but to the role of women in science and technology as well.

Some 435 students will display projects that include a study on the amount of fat in pork, beef and fish; an assessment of the effect of radiation on bacterial contamination of meat; and a simulation of the effect of crude oil spills on marine algae. Many of the exhibits are quite visual.

The science areas covered are broadly divided into physical and biological sciences at three levels: seventh grade, eighth grade, and senior (ninth through twelfth grades). Students have put in a significant amount of time on these projects, working on them during the preceding summer, fall and winter. Many students are continuing work on projects from previous years.

Prizes are awarded at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels. High school winners receive scholarships as well as other prizes. Also, many topical awards are given by state, federal, university and industrial groups.

Last year, Stephanie Staub, a West Des Moines Valley High School student, won a combined $11,000 at the fair for her project, "Is it probable to create a truly random number generator? Phase III." Staub, as well as the winners of the other top two projects, also got the chance to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Louisville, Ky.

In all, there were 88 fair awards and approximately 200 special awards given to students who participated in last year's fair.

McNabb said that the Iowa Space Grant Consortium will again sponsor a $10,000 four-year tuition grant that can be used at any of the three Iowa state universities or Drake University. In addition, there will be Iowa Energy Center Youth and Energy Scholarships and Iowa State Science and Technology Scholarships, as well as other awards. The value of the awards available for the 1998 fair total more than $30,000.

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