PIQUA — Four students from the Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC) have qualified for the State Science Fair after receiving Superior ratings in both the local and district level competitions.
Juniors Brylee Yohey and Abigail Purtee’s project looked at how eating breakfast contributes to athletic performance. There were 39 students from UVCC who volunteered to help them by acting as the guinea pigs for their experiment. During one trial, the volunteers were told to arrive at the Piqua High School track at 8:30 a.m. and run 400 meters (one lap) to create a baseline.
During the other trial, the students arrived early and were given a protein bar that contained fats, carbohydrates, and protein and were given five minutes to eat it. They then ran the 400 meters again, this time on a full stomach.
“That may have been a mistake … a few people got sick,” said Yohey, noting that a longer period in between eating and running may have been beneficial.
Sickness aside, the volunteers ran their 400 meters in an average of 20 seconds faster after having eaten the protein bar.
Seniors MaKenna Homan and Sierra Henning sought to explore the relationship between sleep and functionality. They also had 39 student volunteers who participated in their study. The volunteer group first slept three to five hours at night and took two tests that measure cognitive abilities.
The first test they took was the Stroop Test. The Stroop Test looks at the delay in reaction time when two stimuli are incompatible with each other. First, a series of colors are written in the color they are – i.e., the word Red will be written in red and so forth. The test taker must say the color each word is written in and the time it takes them to do so is measured as a baseline.
Then, words are written in non-corresponding colors – i.e., the word blue is written in green. The test taker must say the color each word is written in and the time it takes them to get through the whole list is measured. This second part of the test generally takes significantly longer.
The second test was the Selective Attention Test. Volunteers are shown a video where people wearing black or white t-shirts are passing multiple basketballs around the group. The watcher is tasked with counting how many times a person wearing a white T-shirt passes a basketball. Since most people are focused on the white T-shirts and counting the passes, they often don’t notice that a man in a gorilla costume walks through the video and even pauses in the center of the screen to beat his chest.
“Barely anyone noticed the gorilla at first,” said Henning.
After taking these tests on only three to five hours of sleep, the volunteers took them again having had six to eight hours of sleep. The results were an 80% increase in the number of students who noticed the gorilla in the Selective Attention Test. For the Stroop Test, students completed the second part an average of 10 seconds faster.
Homan and Henning were given the Premier Health Award in Biomedical & Health Sciences for this experiment during the local competition.
This year’s State Science Fair is being done virtually, and the groups have already submitted their videos to the judges with results expected to come in June. The students took two days to prepare their presentations and had some help from the staff at UVCC.
“They let us get out of class to have extra time to work on it. They looked over our presentations to check for spelling and grammar, and they were very willing to help when we needed it,” said Purtee.
“The staff at the Career Center have been so helpful. They guided us through the process – they still made us do all the work ourselves – but they helped every step of the way,” said MaKenna in reference to Exercise Science Instructor Megan Geise and Science Instructor Mitzi Clark.
Creating a project for a science fair is a lot of work on its own but to receive Superior ratings and qualify for State is a testament to these students’ abilities and a credit to their school.