By Tracy Robillard
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District judged more than 100 science projects created by local middle and high school students at the Georgia Tech Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Feb. 15-16, 2012, at the Coastal Georgia Center in downtown Savannah.
The team selected two high school students and two middle school students to receive special awards from the Corps of Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). Col. Jeff Hall, Corps' Savannah District Commander and SAME Savannah Post President, presented the awards to the students during a ceremony Feb. 16.
The fair included students from more than 100 schools in southeast Georgia and served as a competition for advancement to the state-level fair.
Projects displayed innovating thinking and sound application of the scientific method, ranging from programming model cars for improved steering, testing the properties of peanut oil biofuels to determine the best blend, determining the force needed to drive a nail through various types of wood, and comparing wind turbines for efficiency.
The five Corps judges--Joe Hoke, Jimmy Luo, Jessica Power, Ashley Randel and Hillary Torchia--looked for projects with potential military applications that displayed innovative thinking and scientific processes.
"In the middle school divisions, we look for creative ideas and we want to encourage the student's exploration, innovation, and use of everyday materials," said Randel, a civil engineer with three years experience in the Corps' construction division. "In the high school divisions, we look for elements of scientific principle--strong hypothesis, controlled variables, reproduction of results, sound documentation, and conclusion."
The judges interviewed students and provided feedback to encourage project development and innovation.
"The best part for us as judges is to talk with the students about their motivation for the project," said Luo, an electrical engineer with three years experience in the Corps' Fort Stewart field office. "Most of these students have done well with their project research and have a solid understanding of complex topics. It's amazing to see young students get excited about science and engineering."
The winners of the Corps and SAME special awards are:
• Sherwin Davoud (11th Grade) Project: "Feasibility of Peanut FAME in Main Stream Georgia Fuel Economy"
Davoud's project determined the economic feasibility of using peanuts in biofuel as a replacement for diesel and compared the chemical and physical properties of different blends of peanut oils to determine the ideal blend for use.
• Paige Toraya (9th Grade) Project: "Which Wind Turbine is More Efficient?"
Toraya's project determined a Savonius vertical axis wind turbine is more efficient over a period of time than the Darrieus turbine.
• Jacqueline Cason (8th Grade) Project: "You Nailed it!"
Cason's project determined how much force is needed to pound nails into different types of hard and soft wood with varying construction applications.
• Hampton Moore (7th Grade) Project: "An Improved Steering Mechanism"
Moore's project worked with various concept car models to determine which steering angle offered better control over the motion of the vehicle, which can lead to more agile vehicle and provide quicker maneuvering capabilities.