Student experiments lead them to state competition

HOWLAND — About half a dozen Howland High School students have the chance to compete at the Lake to River Science Day at Youngstown State University after doing well at their own school’s science symposium.

The YSU competition will be March 18 and will include students from Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. Students who receive a “superior” rating will get the chance to move on to State Science Day on April 3, hosted by the Ohio Academy of Science in Columbus.

Jason Lee, the Howland High School teacher whose class participated in the symposium, said 21 students were involved this year and he recommended several to move on to the competition at YSU. Last year, he said 73 students participated and he recommended 10 move on to YSU. Three students actually competed and two won scholarships and moved on to the state competition, where they placed.

For the past five years, Lee’s students have been designing their own experiments and some have been going on to the competition at YSU. This is just the second year that Lee has hosted a symposium for his students, which he said makes them more comfortable with presenting in front of others, thus making them better prepared for future competitions.

Students are judged at the symposium by Howland teachers, administrators and the superintendent. Students are judged 10 points in four different sections, which include oral, written and visual communication; originality; experimental design; and depth of understanding. Students who score 36 points or higher are recommended to move on.

Lee said it’s important for his students to do this project to better prepare them for the next step in their education career.

“I think there is often a big jump from labs at the high school level to labs at the college level,” Lee said.

While high school labs typically are pretty structured, he said, in college, students are more responsible for building the structure of their own labs by doing research, coming up with a hypothesis and designing an experiment to test their hypothesis. That is exactly what his high school students had to do for this project.

The students got to pick their own topic based on their interests. One student who is a swimmer tested how different water temperatures affect a swimmer’s speed. Another student who has a 3D printer tested how different room temperatures affect the quality of the prints. Another student whose family has a garden tested how the amount of CO2 affects plant growth.

Lee said in the future he will work with Tina Craigo, a science teacher at the middle school, to expand the Howland science symposium to younger students, because students starting at fifth grade can attend the Lake to River Science Day.

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