From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 20 - 1/13/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sixth Grade Science Fair

Sixth grade. Everything I missed the first time around, I'm catching up with my son Scott. The big sixth grade event so far, is the Science Fair! I have never participated in a science fair and neither has my husband, Brent. We both thought it would be alot of fun and Scott was really into the idea of being a famous scientist.

Brent attended the meeting for parents to initiate them into doings of the science fair. (I was ill from the previous evenings hilarity.) When Brent got home from the meeting, he had a glazed look in his eyes and a ream of instructions and schedules in his hand. I felt the first stirrings of panic.

Brent and Scott discussed several different project ideas. I was going for a simple plant related experiment. Brent and Scott were going for inventions with a more technical side. They finally settled on inventing a solar powered stock tank heater. It blew me out of the water, I didn't have the foggiest idea how to even begin to build something that technical..... more panic.

Mrs. Costello, the science teacher, approved the idea and Brent and Scott were off inventing with the gusto of "mad scientists." They gathered their supplies, drew pictures, modified a stock tank, welded brackets and stands, wired solar panels and batteries, used endless rolls of duct tape and were finally ready to begin testing.

The tank was wheeled out to the back yard and filled with water. The solar panel gleamed in the winter sun. You could just feel it absorbing all that solar energy.

Scott quivered with his own excited energy. We knew it would work, it had too. Scott reached into the tank to feel the heating element.

"It's warm Dad, I think it is really gonna work!" You could just see the wonder of success on Scott's face. Brent was more conservative. He was quick to remind Scott that the coming night would be the real test. Would we have ice or water in the morning?

The following morning dawned bright and cold. I mean really cold. It was ten below zero. If the solar heater worked it would be a miracle. Scott didn't have a chance to check the project until he was on his way out the door to school. I saw him run over to the tank and give a quick shake of his head. It didn't bode well for the heater.

Later I asked Brent what he thought went wrong. He said he didn't know, but probably the heating element hadn't held up to the extremely cold weather. I was worried that Scott would be so disappointed that he give up on the project. I should have know better.

That night when Scott was out feeding the dogs, I looked out the window in time to see him in the stock tank sliding around on the ice. It was quite a sight. Scott was three feet in the air, sliding back and forth with the dogs running from side to side trying to figure out what he was doing. They were have so much fun, it made the disappointment of the experiment not working fade away.

The next day, the guys chipped the ice out of the tank and discovered that the heating element had indeed burned out. A search was on to find a new one. With deadlines quickly approaching, tension was high.

Mrs. Costello called the following evening for an update on the progress. I explained the problems to her and she said it wasn't a problem. Not all science experiments worked. She suggested we write up what had happened so far and then continue to experiment for next years competition. More panic....

Next year! We have to do this again? I told Brent and Scott what Mrs. Costello said, they both agreed that it was a good idea. They would have time to find a better heating element and figure out how to make it float with the water level dropping and raising.

Scott and I worked for three days writing up the invention. (So much for not being involved due to lack knowledge.) The plant experiment would maybe have been easier, but not nearly as much fun. Who knows, maybe the judges will like solar powered ice better than funny looking plants anyway!

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