Lava lamps, glowing water, rocket power among projects at Ch'ooshgai school science fair

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

TOHATCHI, N.M., February 14, 2013

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(Times photo – Paul Natonabah)

TOP: Ryan Benally demonstrates his model rocket launch during a science fair at Ch'ooshgai Community School on Monday in Tohatchi, N.M.

SECOND FROM TOP: Alejandrew A Hardy explains his science fair project "Homemade Lava Lamps" during a science fair on Monday at Ch'ooshgai Community School.

E ver wonder which oil - baby, olive, canola or motor – would be better to use when making a lava lamp?

That was one of the questions posed by Alejandrew Hardy, a sixth grader at Ch'ooshgai Community School in Tohatchi, N.M., during the school's first-ever K-8 science fair, held Feb. 8, 9 and 11.

Hardy's project was called "Homemade Lava Lamps" in which he presented on how to create a lava lamp using items within a household such as food coloring, Alka-Seltzer, and different kinds oil including those mentioned above.

"It's fun, easy and you just need like three materials from the kitchen…" Hardy said. "It's fun and nice to watch."

For his experiment, Hardy poured 10 ounces of the different oils into four empty soda bottles to determine which oil would have the best reaction.

"I think the olive oil would make the best," Hardy hypothesized.

He also added two ounces of water and 15 drops of different food colorings to the oils.

After the mixture had set, Hardy dropped in half a tablet of Alka-Seltzer and watched it bubble through the water, which created a colorful lava lamp.

Out of all the oils Hardy tested, he determined that olive oil had the best reaction.

Hardy's teacher Abel Joe said he was impressed by Hardy's project because "it's very detailed and he knows what he's talking about."

The excitement of the Ch'ooshgai science fair didn't stop there as another project was about figuring out what makes water glow and testing what kinds of wood burns the fastest and the power of a rocket.

Darnell Johnson and Derek Tom, both sixth graders, said they wanted to find out what type of wood burns the quickest. They used common wood found on the Navajo Nation such as pinon, cedar, pine, and oak.

Johnson and Tom said they conducted their experiment by building four different fire pits, with five five-inch logs each, and burned each pit at the same time.

Johnson said when he first started his experiment, his father offered his thoughts and said that oak would burn the slowest. It turned out that oak in fact burns the quickest with an average burn time of 27 minutes.

Johnson said his guess what that the pinon would burn the slowest and it does with an average burn time of 45 minutes.

"If I were to ever build a fire in a certain place I would use pinon," said Johnson because cedar burns an average of 44 minutes and pine (burns) 41 minutes. "I am persuading them to use pinon more because it burns the slowest."

Seventh graders Chelsea Jones of To?agai, N.M. and Shaliese Roanhorse of Tohatchi teamed up to answer the question: what makes water glow?

"We picked this project because we thought it would be fun," said Jones.

Using tap water, tonic water, a black light, and a highlighter, Jones and Roanhorse began their experiment thinking that tonic water would glow longer and brighter.

They filled up several glasses with tap water and tonic water adding in an equal amount of highlighter liquid into each cup. After, the two put the cups near a black light to see which one was brighter.

"We learned that tonic water has more chemicals then tap water," said Roanhorse, which is why tonic water doesn't glow as long as tap water.

Turns out, tap water glows longer and brighter than the tonic water, Jones and Roanhorse concluded.

Sixth grader Ryan Benally of Naschitti, N.M. presented, "Rocket Power." He demonstrated the propelling of a rocket.

So with some duct tape, an empty soda bottle, cardboard and an air compressor, Benally was able to display a propelling rocket that went up at least three feet in the air.

"The fuel and air pressure comes out of the open end of the rocket propelling the rocket forward," Benally's hypothesis stated.

Benally said he enjoyed participating in the science fair because "you get to do things you never done before."

Students from all grade levels at the school competed in the science fair. The winners will compete in the Navajo Nation Science Fair on Feb. 26 and 27 at Red Rock Park.

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