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Students rack up honors in advancing to NC Science Fair

Eli Nobles likes tomatoes and his family likes to grow them in their garden. So when the time came for Eli to create a science fair project, tomatoes were at the top of his list.

Fifth grade boy stands in front of his tri-fold science fair project.And when the time came for judges to award honors at the Region I Science and Engineering Fair, so was Eli’s project. At the top of the list.

The Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School fifth grader won first place in the elementary division at the 20-county regional event and his will be one of 16 projects by LCPS students to advance to the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair in Raleigh on March 25.

Bryson Canady, a fourth grader at Pink Hill Elementary School, finished third overall at the regional event and six students earned honor mention awards in the elementary division. All will be advancing to the state finals. Eight projects involving 18 middle school and high school students from the district also qualified for the finals by finishing first or second at the regional competition.

In all, 12 LCPS schools will be represented in Raleigh.

“Our students' science fair projects represent hours of work outside the normal school day and show their dedication and curiosity for learning,” said Christel Carlyle, the district’s director of middle school education and organizer of its science competitions. “We celebrate their accomplishments and recognize that when we provide opportunities for our students to compete in academic competitions, their talents and hard work always set them apart.”

LCPS students earned a place in the regional event, held Feb. 25 at East Carolina University, by taking honors in school competitions. They gained experience in explaining the science behind their projects to adults during LCPS’s Science Fair Showcase, held Feb. 8.

For Eli, this was his first try at any Science Fair event. “I won somehow,” he said in an interview at his school.

Maybe it was the uniqueness of his project, his talent at explaining it or the surprising results. “Small, large, short or tall … which solution will grow overall” compared the effectiveness of various solutions in helping tomato plants grow. “My hypothesis was the sweet tea would make it grow the best,” Eli said.

Wrong. In a plant-to-plant comparison of sweet tea, filtered water, distilled water, salt water and diluted tomato sauce, the best aid to tomato plant growth turned out to be tomato sauce. “The tomatoes need acid in them, so the tomato sauce provides acid,” Eli said. “Sweet tea just made it die.”

Other winning projects include those that analyzed local water samples, investigated the role of heredity in fingerprint patterns, compared the effectiveness of soap and hand sanitizer and explored how gravity helps keep you in your seat on a roller coaster.

“The Science Fair is an opportunity for students to explore inquiry-based learning at the highest level using topics and questions of interest to them,” said Dr. Tom Williams, who observed the regional event and is head of development for the NC Science and Engineering Fair Foundation.

“Beyond the science, they have to present and understand the information, and interact with judges. Students learn so much more than just science as part of the NCSEF,” Williams said.

Results from the regional event for LCPS students were:
In the elementary division, Eli Nobles of Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School, first; Bryson Canady of Pink Hill Elementary, third; and honorable mention winners Farai Williams Jones of Northeast Elementary, Jaylee Levey and Isabelle Small of Moss Hill Elementary, Eleanor Florez of Northwest Elementary, Abigail Williams of Banks Elementary and Ava Wade of La Grange Elementary. 

In the middle and high school division, Aayan Farrior of Rochelle Middle, second, Biology A; the team of Valerie Valdivia-Correa, Brianna Garcia-Valdivia and Lizbet Flores-Valdivia of Woodington Middle, second, Biology B; Mallory Ham and Abigail Smith of EB Frink Middle, second, Chemistry; Annaliese Miller and Norah Wine of EB Frink Middle, second, technology; Arianna Aviles, Lily Paulk and Emily Rayner of Contentnea-Savannah K-8, first, technology; Maricela DeCastro, Julian Adams, Clarissa Torres and Antwuane Sutton of Lenoir County Learning Academy, second, Earth Environment; and Abbygayle Best and Marissa Doyle of North Lenoir High, first, Earth Environment

Three LCPS elementary students swept the special awards given by the North Carolina American Water Works and Water Environment Association: Isabelle Small, first; Laurel Lawson, second; and Billie Williams, third. In the same category for middle and high school competitors, Abbygayle Best and Marissa Doyle finished first and Maricela DeCastro, Jullian Adams and Antwuane Sutton finished second.

Photo caption:

Science yielded surprising results when Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School fifth grader Eli Nobles tested the effects of various solutions on tomato plants in a project that won first place in the elementary division at the 20-county Region I Science and Engineering Fair. As regional winners, Eli and 25 other LCPS students will take their projects to the NC Science and Engineering Fair in Raleigh on March 25.