Sixth grade students Emilio Chavez of Ukiah Independent Study Academy and Francisco Muniz of Eagle Peak Middle School made their schools proud by earning the right to compete at the California State Science Fair on April 24-25 at the University of Southern California’s California Science Center. Chavez traveled with his family to Southern California to compete, while Muniz served as the alternate.
Both boys credited a love of science and supportive families as reasons for their success. Chavez’s project involved measuring the levels of e-coli, a harmful bacterium, in Blue Lakes. Muniz investigated the optimum tire pressure for mountain bike riding.
Chavez said, “I love to swim and kayak at Blue Lakes, so I wanted to know if the water was safe.” He worked with Alpha Labs to test various water samples he collected from different parts of the lake: some close to resorts and housing, others in more remote areas.
His data are extensive and his enthusiasm obvious. He opened charts full of information and began explaining the testing process, including how to differentiate between e-coli and other bacteria using certain reagents and ultraviolet fluorescent testing methods. He said that warm-blooded animals (not just humans) produce e-coli in their fecal matter, so he expected to find some e-coli in Blue Lakes, but he wanted to be sure no one was dumping sewage, and a high level of e-coli could indicate such behavior.
Chavez’s teacher, Lisa Mack, said, “Emilio is an amazing student. He is extremely self-motivated to excel in all academics and is especially passionate about the sciences. He independently creates new science experiments weekly, and loves to share his findings. Additionally, Emilio is comfortable having engaging conversations with people of all ages. I thoroughly enjoy having Emilio as my student.”
The other student recognized for his impressive grasp of science and thorough data collection was Francisco Muniz. Muniz enjoys riding his bike with his family around Redwood Valley and wanted to know the best air pressure to use for his tires. He said he had a flat tire recently, and “that was definitely not optimum pressure.”
To determine the effect of air pressure on bicycle riding, he pedaled until he reached 10 mph. He maintained that speed across a predetermined starting point, and then stopped pedaling until he travelled 50 meters, measuring his speed as he crossed the finish line. For his bike and tire size, 65 psi was optimum.
His teacher Tracie Mello said, “Francisco Muniz is a student who is curious about the world and how things work. He asks important questions that lead to great class discussions. Francisco dedicates time to further his knowledge of science outside of the regular school day through experimentation. For his Guinness Hour Project, Francisco chose to cross breed plants. It's this desire to know more that makes Francisco an amazing student of science.”
While Muniz did not travel to Southern California to compete, Chavez took his show on the road. He spoke animatedly about the two-day event, where Nobel prize winning scientists would be among the judges, and competitors would be allow to tour the California Science Center. He could hardly wait to answer the judges questions.
"The judges will know if you're wrong because they know their stuff!" he said.