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TMCNet:  Three take top honors at PCHS?science fair

[February 08, 2013]

Three take top honors at PCHS?science fair

PELL CITY, Feb 08, 2013 (St. Clair News-Aegis - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- An electronic M&M sorter, bridge strength tests and which microphone is the best were the projects that took top honors this year at Pell City High School.


Sophomore Lauren Luker took first place in the engineering, electrical and mechanical category and talked about the lessons learned through putting the project together.

It was something she and her father--a chemical engineer who often works out of town in Bowling Green, KY--collaborated on since October.

She said she found the idea on the Internet by researching a microcontroller, something that is used in everyday items such as automatic doors in stores.

Her "board of education" required six pages of programming before it was able to sort the candy by color.

"It's really cool because robotics--as a field--is really expanding. To work on this for so long, it's a lot of trial and error. To see it all come together is a really cool experience," Luker said. Asked if she wants to study the sciences after high school, she admitted that she would like to eventually become a doctor.

Chase Tollison's bridge strength project, which won in the engineering materials and bioengineering category, was another collaboration of sorts. In his project's case, his grandfather, Sammy Paterson, providing the force used to pull on the center of the structures until the broke.

Tollison said his thoughts about what designs are safest for society led him to choose his project.

"I used balsa wood to build [the bridges] because I'd seen it in a few projects in the past where engineering companies would use balsa wood for proposals for their bosses; it's a more professional presentation," he explained.

Using methods architects and bridge designers would utilize in real-life scenarios, he designed and tested three structures by putting weight in the center of them. Then, using a fish scale to test the weight put on each bridge design, he recorded his findings.

Tollison thanked his schoolteacher aunt, Angela Walker, who helped with material and technological support in his project.

He said the arch bridge did best at getting as close to supporting 10 pounds of force put on the middle of it. The beam structure came second, supporting six pounds and the balsa-made truss structure held only five pounds.

"I really just wanted to see which would be safest," he said. "Of course I had [researched] stuff about fatalities in collapses. If I was ever an engineer in bridge design, I would want to build as many as a certain structure as I could for motorized society to keep folks safe. Keeping society safe is one of the goals of it. It was fun; I have given a lot of thought into going into a type of engineering or some sort of construction that might require a lot of time and work." Carson Bruce's testing of microphones which provided the best capture of a voice and could be put through a speaker took first place in the physical sciences category.

Bruce tested wired, two wireless and one condenser microphone as well as one found on a typical laptop computer to find the best quality. Family came into the equation for his project as well, with his father, Ronnie, who works at WDJC, providing help in acquiring equipment.

He sang "Jesus Loves Me" into each and ran the vocals through computer software to measure the capture quality and be able to represent it as visual data in his project.

His controlled environment included being the same distance away from the mics when he sang as well as using a filter that would keep levels from spiking as he sang each stanza.

Running his singing through Audacity software and an array of different speakers, he found that the condenser mic was the best for capturing vocals.

He said he learned that certain software was to be avoided if trying to record vocals. he also learned that if there is a problem with a speaker, it's likely that the magnet is the source.

___ (c)2013 the St. Clair News-Aegis (Pell City, Ala.) Visit the St. Clair News-Aegis (Pell City, Ala.) at www.newsaegis.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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